Hornbills
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Red-billed Hornbill L: 35–45 cm (14–18") This small, black-and-white hornbill is readily identified by its relatively small red bill, males having a black base to the lower mandible . The similar Southern Yellowbilled Hornbill is larger, with a robust yellow bill, and the rarer Crowned Hornbill (not illustrated) has a uniform brown back and orange bill . The Red-billed Hornbill is a very common resident in open woodland throughout Kruger . Its territorial display, with head bowed and wings spread, starts with a series of “kok-kok-kok” calls, followed by two-syllable “kokok-kokok” notes . This is one of the most terrestrial hornbills, with prey usually taken on the ground; this may explain the birds’ preference for open areas that have been heavily trampled by ungulates and elephants . Hornbills are medium to large birds with large, slightly downcurved bills. They have a bizarre breeding system: the female is sealed into a cavity by her mate, lays 3–5 eggs and undergoes a full moult, rendering her flightless and helpless. During this time the male provisions the entire family through a narrow slit opening: the female breaks out postmoult , when she and the young are ready to fly. Hornbills: 1 male female 104 SouthernYellow-billed Hornbill L: 48–60 cm (19–24") A medium-sized, mostly black-and-white hornbill with white-spotted shoulders, pinkish-red facial skin and a diagnostic yellow bill that gives it the local Kruger nickname of ‘flying banana’ . It is a very common resident in Kruger, and one of the most conspicuous picnic site and camp birds, where it waits for hand outs and searches for scraps . The most frequent territorial display is a continuous rollicking set of “ko-ko, ko-ko” notes, working up to a crescendo “ko-kukuk, ko-kukuk, ko-kukuk” with wings open and head bowed . BIRDS OF BROADLEAVED WOODLAND AND CAMPS 105 African Grey Hornbill L: 43–48 cm (17–19") A medium-sized, ashy-coloured hornbill with pale-edged back feathers, a creamy belly and a long, pale eyebrow . The curved, tapered bill differs between the sexes: males have a mostly dark bill with a pale wedge at the base and a larger casque; the female's bill is mostly ivory above with a purple-reddish tip . This hornbill has a buoyant and undulating flight, when it can be readily identified by its pale rump and tail tips . It is a common resident in woodland throughout Kruger . To proclaim their territory, birds give a long series of plaintive, piping “piu-piu-piu” notes that conclude with some rolling whistles, with the bill raised skywards and the wings flicked with each note . The Zulus believe that the hornbill is an eternal optimist, always looking up to the heavens and hoping for a better future even in the fiercest drought. They therefore call it umkolwana – the‘believer’. Hornbills: 2 and Southern Ground-Hornbill southern ground-hornbill african grey hornbill male female 106 Southern Ground-Hornbill L: 90–130 cm (35–51") This enormous, gregarious, terrestrial hornbill is easily recognised . It is black, with white wingtips that are obvious only in flight . The male has a brilliant red face and throat wattles; the female is similar but has purple-blue skin in the centre of the throat patch; immatures are scruffy, with yellowish facial skin . The number of birds in Kruger is estimated to be 600–700 individuals, and more than 40 nests have been located; this represents about 35% of the population in the whole of South Africa . Groups have territory sizes of up to 100 km2 . In the early morning, dominant pairs indulge in some deep bass duet booming, which can be heard several kilometres away . Despite its relative scarcity, this bird is very conspicuous and small groups are frequently seen walking slowly through bushy savannah searching for invertebrate prey . They can be incredibly tame, sometimes causing traffic jams because of their unwillingness to yield to cars! These birds indulge in some strange breeding behaviour . Within a group, only the dominant pair breeds, and they are very choosy about their nest site, selecting a perfect-sized cavity in a large fig or other suitable tree . This pair is assisted by between 1–9 helpers, usually male birds from previous broods . Sealed into the nest cavity, the female incubates the eggs, relying on the male and helpers to supply her with food . The first hatched chick dominates its younger siblings, which normally starve, leaving just one survivor . This...