Tockus nasutus (African grey hornbill, Grey hornbill) 

GrysneushoringvoŽl [Afrikaans]; Munkono [Kwangali]; Goto, Hoto (generic names for hornbill) [Shona]; Umkhotfo (generic term for hornbill) [Swazi]; Nkorho (generic term for smaller hornbills) [Tsonga]; KŰrwÍ [Tswana]; Grijze tok [Dutch]; Calao ŗ bec noir [French]; Grautoko [German]; Calau-cinzento [Portuguese]

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Tockus nasutus (African grey hornbill, Grey hornbill)  Tockus nasutus (African grey hornbill, Grey hornbill) 
African grey hornbil malel, Tanzania. [photo Martin Goodey ©] African grey hornbill female, Kruger National Park, South Africa. [photo Lorinda Steenkamp ©]

The African grey hornbill occurs throughout the savannas of sub-Saharan Africa. In southern Africa it is locally common in a wide range of wooded savannas and woodland. It eats animals, such as birds eggs and nestlings, insects, rodents and frogs, but it also occasionally eats small fruit. It mainly nests in natural holes in tree trunks or branches, the female sealing it with her own faeces. The female lays 3-5 eggs, which she incubates for 24 days. The chicks stay in the nest for 43-49 days, joining their parents in foraging trips a few weeks after fledging.

Distribution and habitat

Occurs throughout the savannas of sub-Saharan Africa. In southern Africa it is locally common in Zimbabwe, Botswana, northern Namibia, Mozambique, northern South Africa and KwaZulu-Natal. It generally prefers wooded savannas and woodland, ranging from miombo (Brachystegia) woodland to arid thornveld, wooded gardens and alien tree plantations.

Distribution of African grey 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.  

Call

 
   

Recorded by W.B. Keeble, [© Transvaal Museum]

 

Food 

It mainly eats animals, such as birds eggs and nestlings, insects, rodents and frogs, supplemented with small fruit. It mainly forages by flying to different bushes, catching prey as it moves; it may also grab animals on the ground. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

Breeding

  • It usually nests in natural holes in tree trunks or branches; once a site has been selected the female seals it from the inside with her own faeces. Most of its nests have a "chimney" or "funk-hole", which is a tunnel leading out from the cavity that the female moves into if it feels threatened. It occasionally nests in rock crevices, barbet-made tree holes and nest boxes.
  • Egg-laying season starts after first strong summer rains, peaking from October-November.
  • It lays 3-5 eggs at 1-7 day intervals, taking about 6-10 days to complete the clutch.
  • Incubation is done solely by the female for about 24 days, fed by the male through the small entrance slit.
  • The chicks stay in the nest for 43-49 days, although the female leaves when the oldest chick is 19-34 days old, after which the chicks reseal the entrance. After fledging the young join their parents on foraging trips, becoming fully independent a few weeks later.

Threats

Not threatened, in fact its common in many areas, especially in the Etosha National Park (Namibia), Hwange National Park (Zimbabwe) and the Kruger National Park (South Africa).

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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