Black-casqued Hornbill

Ceratogymna atrata

Red List Status: LC – Least Concern (IUCN 2018)

Distribution: West and Central Africa from south Guinea and Sierra Leone, east to South Sudan and west Uganda and south to north-west Angola; also on Bioko Island (Equatorial Guinea). 

Description: 60-70 cm. Male 1,069-1,600 g; female 907-1,182 g. From the Yellow-casqued Hornbill where they overlap by huge black casque (male) and by lack of white scales in neck plumage (both sexes). Large black hornbill with white tip in tail. Naked skin around eye and wattles over throat blue. Male has all-black head and large black bill and casque; female is smaller with brown head and neck and horn-coloured bill and much smaller casque. Juvenile like adult female but casqueless bill smaller. 

Voice: The call is a powerful nasal braying wha-owha-o wha-a-a-awwhaaaw that can be heard 2 km away. Both sexes call; male’s call is louder and deeper. The male also gives a loud resonant squark, and a soft chuckling in alarm. 

Audio from xeno-canto

Habits: Occurs in primary evergreen forest, mainly in the lowlands but extends into hill forest up to 1,500 m elevation. Also in mature secondary growth and nearby plantations. Here it feeds mainly high in the large trees, but it will occasionally drop to the ground to pursue prey or pick up fallen fruits. 90% of the food is vegetable, mainly figs and especially oil palm fruits; fruits from at least 20 plant families and 37 genera have been identified as food source. The remaining 10% is animal prey such as insects; it has been seen hawking for flying insects above the forest canopy; nests of weaver birds are also raided. Most forest hornbills never drink water, but this one has been observed drinking on several occasions. It usually moves around in pairs or in family groups, but flocks up to 40 have been recorded. When flocking it will wander far across the forest in search of fruiting trees, it can cover at least 100 km. Flocks will gather in the evening at favorite roosting sites; the roosting branches are usually 20-50 off the ground in dry forest but as low as 5-8 meters in swamps.