Yellow billed hornbill

This very conspicuous bird with it’s black and white plumage and unmistakable large yellow bill, from which it gets it’s name, is very common in the Kruger National Park and immediate surrounds. Favouring dry savanna bush and mopane regions, it spends much of it’s time foraging on the ground. It is in many respects a strange bird and this applies to it’s unusual nesting and breeding behaviour which is similar to other hornbill species – the exception being the ground hornbill.

Breeding occurs between the months September through March with a peak in October to November. A breeding pair locate a natural hole in a tree which is then lined with dry grass and leaves. The female enters the nest and seals it from inside with material carried to her by the male, leaving a small vertical slit through which she is fed by the male for the duration of her stay in the nest. This is about 44 – 46 days in total. The first 24 days incubating the eggs and remaining with the chicks for another 20 – 22 days before breaking out of the sealed entrance. During the incubation period she loses all her feathers which grow back before she leaves the nest. The nest is resealed by the young which continue to be fed by both parents, through a narrow slit, for about an additional three weeks before they themselves break the sealed entrance and emerge to take on the outside world. The images show an adult male feeding either a female or young in the sealed nest. It could however also be an adult female feeding young as one cannot distinguish adult males from females. We do however know it is an adult bird because the bill is bright yellow (dusky yellow in immature birds) as well as the eye, which is grey during the immature stage.