Distribution: Eastern and southern Africa; from southern Ethiopia and Somalia across all of East Africa south to South Africa; also west to the west coast of Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Angola.
Description: 50 cm. Male 191-332 g. Female 180-249 g. Fairly small hornbill, plumage is sooty-brown with white eyebrow and belly; bill and casque is orangey red with yellowish line at the base. From closely related Bradfield’s Hornbill by much darker plumage, but there is no overlap in range. Female is smaller with lower casque, yellow (not reddish) eye and small patch of green skin on throat. Juvenile has yellow bill and white spots in wing coverts.
Voice: The call is a variety of loud high-pitched whistling notes. A series of notes together, rising and falling in pitch, is used in territorial display.
Habits: Occurs in a variety of wooded habitats; often coastal and riverine forests or deciduous woodlands in montane terrain up to 3,000 m elevation. It can feed in adjacent cultivation and even enters gardens in built-up settlements to feed on cultivated plants. It is omnivorous and feeds on a combination of fruits and small animal prey. Eats an assortment of fruits, especially during the dry season when animals are harder to come by. 20 different types have been identified including figs and cycad seeds. It will also take cultivated varieties where available, such as oil palm fruits, peanuts, bananas and maize. The animal prey is mainly invertebrates such as locusts, cicadas, mantids, butterflies, moths, caterpillars as well as ants, termites and snails. Also centipedes, spiders and maggots and pupae from carcasses. Occasionally also vertebrate animals such as lizards and eggs and chick from other birds. Arboreal, it feeds mainly inside the trees, actively pursuing prey and flying out to hawk for flying insects. Can also drop to the ground to pick up fallen fruits or pursue prey. It is territorial and mainly sedentary, usually seen in pairs or small family groups of up to 7 birds, especially in moist evergreen forest habitat. In more arid regions however, it does form flocks and will become somewhat nomadic outside of the breeding season, flocks of up to 80 have been reported moving out to different elevations and better feeding grounds.