Trumpeter Hornbill

Wild Status:

Least Concern

Scientific Name:

Bycanistes bucinator


This hornbill is a locally common resident of the tropical evergreen forests of Southern Africa, including Burundi, Mozambique, Botswana, Congo, Kenya, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Tanzania the Caprivi strip of Namibia and eastern South Africa.


The Trumpeter Hornbill, is a medium-sized hornbill, between 58 and 65 cm, characterized by a large grey casque on the bill, which is smaller in females. The eyes are brown or red, with pink surrounding skin. Distinguishing features include an all-black back, white belly and white underwing coverts (in flight, wings present white tips), and red facial skin.

Trumpeter Hornbill numbers are not known but are believed to be stable and they are to be found over a huge range of Southern Africa. Not threatened other than by land transformation resulting in habitat loss.

Feeding and habits:

Trumpeter Hornbills are omnivorous feeding on fruits, large insects, crabs, millipedes, reptiles and small mammals.

It generally prefers warm coastal lowland forest, often near watercourses, although often flying across other habitats on its way to new forest patches.

Breeding and Life Expectancy:

Lifespan: 20 years.

The Trumpeter Hornbill normally uses natural holes in trees as nesting sites. Once a site has been selected the female then seals it with mud and faeces collected by the male, leaving a small slit. It sometimes uses holes in rock faces, although not often.
Egg-laying season is from September-January, peaking from October-November.
It lays 2-4 eggs, which are incubated solely by the female for roughly 24 days. The male forages for the female, giving food to her through the entrance slit.

The chicks stay in the nest for at least 50 days, remaining near the nest for about a week before joining the parents in foraging flights.  

More Interesting Facts:

  • When she finds a suitable hole to use as a nest site, a female Trumpeter Hornbill goes inside and ‘bricks up’ the entrance using mud, faeces and saliva, leaving just a narrow slit through which her partner will feed her.

  • After she has laid her eggs, the eggs take about 24 days to hatch and then the chicks take another 50 days to grow their feathers. That means the female is imprisoned, relying on her mate to feed her for around 80 days!

At the Jungle Zoo: