Northern Ground Hornbill

Bucorvus abyssinicus

Red List Status: VU – Vulnerable, criteria A2bcd+3bcd+4bcd (IUCN 2018)

Also called the Abyssinian Ground-hornbill.

Distribution: Occurs in Africa north of the equator, from south Mauritania and Guinea east to Ethiopia and north-west Somalia, and south to Uganda and northern Kenya. 

Description: 90-100 cm. Male 4,000 g. Large hornbill with black plumage and white primaries visible in flight. Bill is black with casque and yellowish base on upper mandible. Bare skin around eye blue. Male has red pouch with blue patch; females’ ouch is all-blue. Juvenile has browner plumage, no casque on bill and dull grey facial skin. Sex is evident after 1 year; full maturity is reached after 3 years. 

Voice: The call is a series of deep booming notes uu-h uu-h or uu-h uh-uh-uh.  

Audio from xeno-canto

Habits: Occurs in savanna and sub-desert grasslands with some scrub, generally prefers drier and less wooded areas than Southern Ground-hornbill. Extends into hilly and rocky terrain and in Ethiopia recorded up to 3,257 m elevation. It feeds mainly on animals that it finds in the grass such as beetles, larvae, spiders and vertebrate prey like lizards and tortoises. It also feeds on fallen fruits and seeds and will gather with other scavengers at carrion. At ideal feeding spots a small flock of up to 20 individuals might gather. The pair is apparently sedentary, and juveniles stay in the family home range for several years. In captivity a pair lived for at least 40 years.