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The Wildebeest's guide to South Africa

Crowned Hornbill

Afrikaans name: Gekroonde Neushoringvoël

A Crowned Hornbill about to take off in Vernon Crookes Nature Reserve

Crowned Hornbill

Photo © Steven Herbert

Tockus alboterminatus

When birding in coastal or riverine forests along the eastern edge of South Africa you may here a loud twittering or staccato call which may lead you to seeing a Crowned Hornbill perched in the top of a tree. These hornbills normally look for their food in trees. They feed off a variety of foods including small rodents, insects, small reptiles and fruit. They are quite clumsy birds when seen manoeuvring through the foliage searching for food. Occasionally they will drop down to the ground to look for food.

The Crowned Hornbill is medium-sized, as hornbills, go, reaching a length of 50 to 55 cm. It has a white belly, blackish back, red bill and white streaks on the back of its head. Male and female are similar in colour, but males have a larger casque on their bills.

Crowned Hornbill

Photo © Steven Herbert

The Crowned Hornbill is often found in areas with big trees such as riverine and coastal forest. Normally they will be seen in small flocks. They are dependent on big trees for breeding so are vulnerable to deforestation and fires.

They use cavities in taller trees for their nests and are known to use the same cavity for several years. When ready for egg-laying the female will go into the cavity and seal most of the entrance hole with her droppings. She then relies on the male to bring her food. Most often females lay 3 or 4 eggs which she incubates for up to 4 weeks, while the male continues to supply food for her and the chicks. The female leaves the nest after about 4 weeks and the chicks seal the entrance up again. They remain there for another 3 to 4 weeks.

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References and further reading

A Field Guide to the Birds of Southern Africa - 2nd Edition - Author: O.P.M. Prozesky - Year Published: 1983 - Page: 184

A First Guide to South African Birds - 6th Edition - Author: Leonard Gill - Year Published: 1959 - Page: 104

A First Guide to South African Birds - 7th Edition - Author: Leonard Gill - Year Published: 1975 - Page: 104

Birds of Southern Africa - Kruger National Park - Author: Kenneth Newman - Year Published: 1985 - Page: 138

Birds of the Transvaal - Author: Tarboton, Kemp and Kemp - Year Published: 1987 - Page: 154

Collins Illustrated Checklist - Birds of Southern Africa - 1st edition - Author: Ber van Perlo - Year Published: 1999 - Page: 44

Field Guide to the Birds of Kruger National Park - Author: Ian Sinclair and Ian Whyte - Year Published: 1991 - Page: 130

Ian Sinclair's Field Guide to the Birds of Southern Africa - 2nd Edition - Author: Ian Sinclair - Year Published: 1988 - Page: 184

Newman's Birds of Southern Africa - 1st Edition - Author: Ken Newman - Year Published: 1984 - Page: 258

Newman's Birds of Southern Africa - 7th Edition - Author: Ken Newman - Year Published: 2000 - Page: 258

Roberts' Birds of Southern Africa - 1st Edition - Author: Dr. Austin Roberts - Year Published: 1949 - Page: 174

Roberts' Birds of Southern Africa - 3rd Edition - Author: McLachlan and Liversidge - Year Published: 1975 - Page: 291

Roberts' Birds of Southern Africa - 4th Edition - Author: McLachlan and Liversidge - Year Published: 1981 - Page: 306

Roberts' Birds of Southern Africa - 5th Edition - Author: Gordon Lindsay Maclean - Year Published: 1985 - Page: 400

Roberts' Birds of Southern Africa - 6th Edition - Author: Gordon Lindsay Maclean - Year Published: 1993 - Page: 396

Sasol Birds of Southern Africa - 1st Edition - Author: Ian Sinclair et al. - Year Published: 1993 - Page: 258

Sasol Birds of Southern Africa - 4th Edition - Author: Ian Sinclair et al. - Year Published: 2011 - Page: 268

Southern African Bird Names Explained - Author: Charles Clinning - Year Published: 1989 - Page: 142

Wildlife of Southern Africa - Author: Martin Withers and David Hosking - Year Published: 2011 - Page: 130

Click here for more info on Crowned Hornbills

List of South African Birds

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