Brown-cheeked Hornbill

Bycanistes cylindricus

Red List Status: VU – Vulnerable, criteria A2cd+3cd+4cd (IUCN 2018)

Distribution: West Africa from southern Guinea and Sierra Leone, east across Liberia, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, to Togo. 

Description: 60-70 cm. Male body mass unrecorded; one female 921 g. Fairly large hornbill. Male differs from the sympatric male Grey-cheeked Hornbill by large creamy bill and high ridged casque, and prominent black band across white tail; head and upper half of body, belly and thighs are black. Broad white rump and white primaries in wing; bare skin around eyes carmine-red; feathers on cheeks are brown-tipped, giving the bird a tinged face. Female is smaller with smaller all-black bill and casque and pale pinky-cream orbital skin. Juvenile is similar to adult but with almost casqueless and smaller bill. 

Voice: The call is a series of harsh and coughing notes descending in tone rack kack kak-kak-kak. Also a single contact call kack and some piping notes reported. The large wings produce a loud whooshing sound. 

Audio from xeno-canto

Habits: Occurs mainly in primary lowland rainforest; less often found in closed secondary forest and nearby plantations. It feeds mainly on fruits high in the tree canopies, but also takes some animal prey, mainly insects such as beetles, mantids, grasshoppers, dragonflies and winged ants that it can catch in the air. It usually moves in resident pairs, but a flock of up to 6 birds may gather in good fruiting trees; a rare 30-year old record of 90 birds together in fruiting trees, and a recent three-fold inter-seasonal variation in numbers reported for Cote d’Ivoire, both suggesting patchy and fluctuating food supplies, albeit less so than for larger relatives. Reports from Liberia show that it becomes somewhat nomadic outside of the breeding season and roams far in search of favorable feeding sites; flocks of 50 birds have birds observed.

Photo by Raphael Jordan