Hornbills, scientifically known as Bucerotidae, are a family of tropical birds found in Asia, Subtropical Africa, and Melanesia. They are named after their oddly down-curved bills, some of which are adorned with a large hollow structure made from keratin called the casque.

The casques for each hornbill which vary in size and color, serve the following functions:

  • Attracting mates
  • Resonating sound
  • Making the birds’ territorial calls more audible
  • Provide support when peeling off tree barks or digging in the soil for insects.

Moreover, hornbills are large-headed, with broad wings, long tails, and thin necks, and the plumage is black or brown, commonly with bold white markings. The size of a hornbill ranges from 40 cm in the smaller Tockus species, to 160 cm, in the great hornbill (Buceros bicornis). Southern Africa’s southern ground hornbill is a giant hornbill, standing at three feet tall with a four-foot wingspan, while the East and Central Africa’s red-billed dwarf hornbill is the smallest species, at just under one foot.

In addition, many of these 62 species of hornbills spend time and live in trees, except for the ground-dwelling hornbills (family-Bucorvidae). Hornbills occupy a range of landscapes, including forests, shrublands, savannas, rocky, and high-altitude areas—however, almost all the species nest in natural cavities, like trees or occasionally on rocky cliffs.

Furthermore, hornbills are omnivores eating fruits, seeds, insects, amphibians, reptiles, and small mammals. For instance, they show several courtship behaviors, alternating calls in a sort of duet or clattering bills together.

Facts about the Hornbill

  • Hornbills are monogamous
  • A male hornbill brings food to its mate and sometimes goes for a whole year.
  • A female hornbill lays two eggs, which she incubates for roughly 42 days
  • Hornbill chicks fledge approximately 80 days after they hatch.