|Abbysinian Ground Hornbill|
Hornbills (Family Bucerotidae) are a group of birds whose bill is shaped like a cow's horn, but without a twist, sometimes with a casque on the upper mandible. Frequently, the bill is brightly coloured. Both common English and scientific name of the family refer to the shape of the bill, "Buceros" being "cow horn" in Greek.
The Bucerotidae Family includes 47 species, 9 of them endemic of the Southern part of Africa. During incubation, the female moults up to six white eggs locked within the nest cavity, made of mud, droppings and fruit pulp. There is only one narrow aperture, big enough for the male to transfer food to the mother and the chicks. When the chicks and the female are too big to fit in the nest, the mother breaks out and rebuilds the wall, then both parents feed the chicks. In some species, are the chicks themselves who rebuild the wall unaided.
Most are arboreal birds of dense forest, but the large Ground Hornbills, as their name implies, are terrestrial birds of open savannah. Their distribution ranges from Africa south of the Sahara, tropical Asia, Philippines and Solomon Islands.
Hornbills are omnivorous birds, eating fruit, insects and small animals.
In the Sibley-Ahlquist taxonomy, Hornbills are separated from the Coraciiformes, which also includes kingfishers, bee-eaters and rollers as a separate order Bucerotiformes.
Some species have different plumages for each sex. The blue throat of the Abbysinian Ground Hornbill pictured above shows it to be an adult female.
A more typical hornbill species is shown below.
References: Gordon Lindsay Maclean - Robert's Birds of South Africa, 6th Edition
Hornbill is also the magazine of the Bombay Natural History Society. This society's icon is a Great Indian Hornbill sitting on a branch.