2019-08-04: Hornbills

As mentioned last week, I am going to focus on birds for my Sunday posts during the month of August.  I had some really interesting bird sightings during my recent travels, and I am looking forward to editing and sharing some of the moments.

I decided to start off with hornbills; the only reason being that a hornbill was the first bird image I took when I got to the bush, so it seemed a logical enough place to start.  I posted a few hornbill images back in June as a wordless Wednesday post; you can find those here.

During my travels, I saw 5 different species of hornbill, including several sightings on two different properties of the endangered southern ground hornbill.  Our rangers shared some fascinating information about these birds; the southern ground hornbill has helpers to raise their chick; these baby-sitters put in several years of assistance duties before they take on the responsibility of mating themselves.

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A family group of 3 southern ground hornbills foraging in the early morning near Lion Sands River Lodge.  South Africa, May 2019.
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This hornbill was also in a group of 3, seen while staying at Kings Camp in the Timbavati.  The group were spread over over several different trees and fallen branches.  May, 2019.

More common to see while out on game drives and the red and yellow billed hornbills (or banana head and chill pepper as they seem to be called quite often :))  Our rangers also explained some interesting facts about the breeding habits of the hornbills; I am not 100% certain if this applies to all the African hornbill species, but during breeding, the female will lay eggs into a tree hollow, and then allow herself to be sealed up inside the tree cavity with only a small opening to allow the male to pass food in to her and the chicks once they hatch.  The female removes all her flight feathers during this time and allows them to regrow while nesting, and as such she is completely reliant on her mate for her survival, as well as the survival of their offspring.  Such trust!

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A red-billed hornbill showing off some serious flexibility.  I’m pretty sure there are yoga poses that look like this 🙂
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A yellow-billed hornbill perched against the clear blue sky.
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A pair of red-billed hornbills spotted at sunset.

These last two hornbills are less common (at least for me) to see while out in the bush.  I’ve seen the grey hornbill and crowned hornbill each on only one other occasion.  Both of these were spotted while out on game drives from Lion Sands River Lodge.

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A grey hornbill perched in the tree tops.  Lion Sands River Lodge, May 2019.
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A crowned hornbill giving us a backwards glance.

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