Red-billed Hornbill ( Tockus erythrorhynchus, family: Bucerotidae) in the KNP

Birds & Birding in the Kruger National Park South Africa. 

Red Billed Hornbill Kruger ParkThe Red-billed Hornbill (Latin name Tockus erythrorhynchus) is described in Roberts Birds of Southern Africa, 7th Edition. This bird has a unique Roberts number of 458 and you will find a full description of this bird on page 149. The Red-billed Hornbill belongs to the family of birds classified as Bucerotidae. According to the Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology the Red-billed Hornbill is also known by these other names: Red-beaked Hornbill.

The map of the Kruger you see on this page shows the areas (coloured orange) where this bird has been identified. The basic information was provided by the Avian Demographic Unit based at UCT and I created the maps from that information ... the green dots show the locations of the various Kruger National Park Rest Camps

The Red-billed Hornbill is neither Endemic or near Endemic to the Kruger National Park. It is however a common resident

Identification assistance for this avian species ...

The Red-billed Hornbill is a bird about the size of a Francolin now called Spurfowl. The height of the Red-billed Hornbill is about 45 cms and its weight is about 150 gms

The male and female Red-billed Hornbill have the same plumage and colours

  • Head is grey.
  • Eye is yellow.
  • Bill is red.
  • Throat is grey.
  • Back is black.
  • Legs are grey.

This bird has normally proportioned leg length and has a long tail.

Main diet items for this bird ...

The Red-billed Hornbill feeds on the ground mainly



The nesting habit which is similar for most hornbills is of particular interest ...

Mating pairs of the Hornbills inspect potential nesting sites (holes in tree trunks) together. A good nesting hole will preferably face north out of the direct prevailing winds and to get good access to heat from the morning sun.

Once approved the base of the hole will be lined, by the female, with dry leaves or bits of bark. In preparing to lay eggs inside the nest the female will close up the entrance hole using its own faeces until only a slit is left open through which the male can bring food to the female.

Eggs are normally layed after the first good rains and about 5 days after the female has secured itself in the nest. It seems a high percentage of these nesting birds have access to a bolt or escape hole at some position higher than the nesting floor level or incubation chamber.

While inside the nest the female uses the opportunity to moult all its feathers (all birds do molt but normally on a piece-meal basis and not as aggressively as the hornbills do). The molting feathers also create extra nesting materials for the fledgling chicks.

A typical clutch of eggs is 4 layed over a period of days and the chicks hatch in the order the eggs are laid. As the young develop they learn to squirt their droppings through the slit entrance to the nest.

The female leaves the nest when the oldest chick is between 3 and 4 weeks old and the chicks reseal the nest.

There are normally 2 broods of youngsters raised a few months apart. It is unusual for more than 2 chicks to survive and learn to forage with their parents.

The bird lays eggs which are white in colour and number between 2 to 5

The bird lays eggs which are white in colour and number between 2 to 7

Habitat and flocking behaviour for this bird ...

The preferred habitats for Red-billed Hornbill are: woodlands

You will normally see the Red-billed Hornbill in pairs or flocks and not as single birds.

Names of this avian species in other languages ...

Xhosa ... Unknown

Zulu ... umKholwane

Afrikaans ...Rooibekneushoringvol

German ... Rotschnabeltoko

Portuguese ... Calau-de-bico-vermelho

French ... Calao bec rouge

Dutch ... Roodsnaveltok

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For in-depth birding information please refer to these authoritative avian references ...

Robert's 7th edition number ... 458

The main reference source for this data was "Roberts - Birds of Southern Africa, 7th Edition" edited by PAR Hockey, WRJ dean and PG Ryan