Western African Pied Hornbill

Lophoceros semifasciatus

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

Distribution: Occurs in the west from Senegal, The Gambia and Guinea-Bissau across Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Togo and Benin to south-west Nigeria. 

Description: 50 cm. Male 250-316 g. Female 191-260 g. Fairly small hornbill, plumage is glossy-black with white belly. Male has outer tip of tail white; tip of bill and casque is black. Bare skin around eye and on throat blue. Female is smaller with smaller bill and casque that has black markings at tip; throat patch is orange. Juvenile has small pale yellow casqueless bill. 

Voice: The call is some shrill high-pitched whistling notes. A series of 3-4 notes together rising and falling in pitch pi-pi-pi pi-pi-pi pi-pi-pieeu is used in territorial display. 

Audio from xeno-canto


Habits: Occurs in a variety of wooded habitats from primary rainforest and adjacent secondary forest to deciduous woodlands, palm oil plantations and cultivated areas with some remnant tree cover. Mainly in the lowlands to 900 m elevation. It is omnivorous and feeds on fruits as well as small animals in about even proportions. Eats an assortment of fruits, 14 different plant genera have been identified, also many oil palm fruits. The animal prey is mainly invertebrates such as grasshoppers, cicadas, mantids, butterflies, caterpillars and many flying termites, also some spiders, ants and wasps. Occasionally also vertebrate animals such as lizards, tree-frogs, rodents, bats and bird nestlings; sunbird and woodpecker nests have been seen robbed, and the hornbill is in turn often mopped by small birds. It feeds high in large trees, some 30-50 m off the ground, often on the outside of the canopy or flying out to hawk for flying insects. Can also drop to the ground to pick up fallen fruits or prey. It is sedentary and probably territorial throughout much of the huge range, usually seen in pairs or small family groups of 3-5, but more birds can congregate in good fruiting trees. It often roosts communally.