Tockus erythrorhynchus (Red-billed hornbill) 

RooibekneushoringvoŽl [Afrikaans]; umKholwane (also applied to Crowned hornbill) [Zulu]; Rukoko (generic term for hornbills with red or yellow bills) [Kwangali]; Goto, Hoto (generic names for hornbill) [Shona]; Umkhotfo (generic term for hornbill) [Swazi]; Nkorho (generic term for smaller hornbills) [Tsonga]; KŰrwÍ [Tswana]; Roodsnaveltok [Dutch]; Calao ŗ bec rouge [French]; Rotschnabeltoko [German]; Calau-de-bico-vermelho [Portuguese]

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Tockus erythrorhynchus (Red-billed hornbill)  Tockus erythrorhynchus (Red-billed hornbill) 
Red-billed hornbill, Krugersdorp Nature Reserve, South Africa. [photo Gerhard Theron ©] Red-billed hornbill with dragonfly. [photo Callie de Wet ©]

The Red-billed hornbill occurs from south-eastern Angola and Zambia to southern Africa, where it is common in open, wooded savanna with sparse ground cover. It feeds mainly on small insects, such as beetles, ants, termites and flies, but it also eats larger arthropods, small vertebrates, small seeds and fruit. It nests in natural cavities in trees 0.3-9 m above ground, which the female seals with her own faeces. It lays 2-7 eggs, which are incubated solely by the female, for 23-25 days. The chicks stay in the nest for 39-50 days, remaining near the nest for a few more days before joining their parents in foraging.

Distribution and habitat

Occurs from south-eastern Angola and Zambia to southern Africa. Within Southern Africa it is common in north-eastern Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and north-eastern South Africa. It generally prefers open, wooded savanna with sparse ground cover.

Distribution of Red-billed hornbill in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project (© Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  

Predators and parasites

Food 

It feeds mainly on small insects, such as beetles, ants, termites and flies, but it also eats larger arthropods, small vertebrates, small seeds and fruits. It does most of its foraging on the ground, rarely hawking prey aerially. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

Breeding

  • It nests in natural cavities in trees 0.3-9.0 m above ground. The female seals it with her own faeces, leaving a small entrance hole 3-4 cm wide.
Tockus erythrorhynchus (Red-billed hornbill)  

Red-billed hornbill at its nest, Phabeni Gate, Kruger Park, South Africa. [photo Warwick Tarboton ©]

 
  • Egg-laying season after good summer rains, from September-March, peaking from October-December.
  • It lays 2-7, usually 3-5 eggs, as the number depends on rainfall and food availability before laying.
  • Incubation is done solely by the female for about 23-25 days, starting with the first laid egg.
  • The chicks stay in the nest for 39-50 days, remaining near the nest for a few more days before joining their parents on foraging trips.

Threats

Not threatened, in fact widespread and common.

References

  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG (eds) 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town. 

 

 

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