Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill

Tockus leucomelas

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

Distribution: Southern Africa; from south-west Angola and Namibia across Botswana, Zimbabwe and southern Zambia east to southern Malawi, western Mozambique and northern South Africa. 

Description: 40 cm. Male 153-242 g; female 138-211 g. Combination of pied plumage and yellow bill diagnostic within range. Small slender hornbill with pied plumage and long yellow bill. Male has broad bill and low casque extending to tip. Female is smaller, with smaller bill and shorter casque. Juvenile is like adult but with shorter dull yellow bill with brown spots. 

Voice: The call is similar to Red-billed Hornbill’s but somewhat deeper and more liquid; a series of chucking notes uttered singly, or in a series sometimes leading into a continuous bubbling call kok-kok-kok …korkorkorkork

Audio from xeno-canto

Habits: The Southern yellow-billed hornbill occurs in savannah and open woodlands, often along rivers and grasslands with scattered trees; in the west also in more arid semi-deserts and thorn-bush country. It feeds on the ground or low in the bushes, by walking and running to catch small prey. It does not dig in the ground like the Red-billed Hornbill does, instead it searches on the ground or in the leaf litter and on branches and snatches animals up with its powerful bill. The food is mainly small invertebrates such as ants and termites, especially during the dry season, but when available also grasshoppers, beetles, caterpillars, centipedes and scorpions. It also takes some vertebrate prey such as bird eggs and nestlings and rodents during years of abundance, as well as some fruits and seeds. It is usually found in resident pairs or small family flocks and it can stay in the home range all year. It is territorial and sedentary in most areas; the pair will fly out to feed in the morning and come home to the same roost in the evening. In some areas with a long dry season, like the Kalahari Desert, it will move out in search of better feeding grounds when not breeding.