Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill ( Tockus leucomelas, family: Bucerotidae)

One of the most common birds you will see as you drive around the Kruger

The Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill (Latin name Tockus leucomelas) is described in Roberts Birds of Southern Africa, 7th Edition and has the number 459 with a full description on page 152. The Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill belongs to the family of birds classified as Bucerotidae.

southern yellow hornbill kruger national park birds The map of the Kruger you see on this page shows the areas (coloured orange) where this bird has been identified and in this case this bird is so common that it can be seen anywhere.

It is a near endemic species of The Kruger National Park


Identification assistance for this avian species ...

One of the first indicators to take note of when trying to identify a bird is it relative size. For example how big is the bird compared to a well known familiar bird. The Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill is a largish bird but smaller than a Pied Crow. The height of the Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill is about 60 cms and its weight is about 170 gms

Southern Yellow Billed Hornbill Kruger ParkThe male and female Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill have the same plumage and colours. Its bill is large compared to its body and expecially so when compared to the Gray and Red Billed Hornbills.

  • Head is grey.
  • Eye is yellow.
  • Bill is yellow.
  • Throat is white.
  • Back is black and white distinctly patterned ... see picture
  • Legs are grey.

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

Main diet items for this bird ...

The Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill feeds on the ground, on the wing and in foliage mainly. It eats



Seeds and you will see it foraging in animal dung for insects.

Breeding and nesting habits for this bird ...

The Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill is monogamous unless its mate dies. In the event of a partner dying Tockus leucomelas will seek out a new mate

The nesting habit of Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill is to create the nest in a hole in a tree trunk. The bird lays eggs which are white in colour and number between 2 to 6.

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.

Habitat and flocking behaviour for this bird ...

The preferred habitats for Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill are: grasslands but it is also at home in wetland and bushveld areas.

You will normally see the Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill in pairs, small groups and sometimes singly (but a second one will not be far away).

Names of this avian species in other languages ...

Xhosa ... Unknown

Zulu ... Unknown

Afrikaans ...Geelbekneushoringvol

German ... Gelbschnabeltoko

Portuguese ... Calau-de-bico-amarelo

French ... Calao leucomle

Dutch ... Geelsnaveltok

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

Robert's 7th edition number ... 459

The main reference source for this data was "Roberts - Birds of Southern Africa, 7th Edition"