White-thighed Hornbill

Bycanistes albotibialis

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

Distribution: Central Africa from Benin east across Nigeria, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo to South Sudan and western Uganda, and south across Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Republic of the Congo and Gabon into northern Angola. 

Description: 60-70 cm. Male 1200-1411 g; female 908-1043 g. Fairly large hornbill with black head and top half of body including breast, belly and thighs white. Broad white rump and outer primary and econdary wing feathers; tail white with black band across middle. Bare skin around brown eyes is yellow. Male has large dark-creamy bill and paler long, high, pointed casque. Female is smaller with smaller all-black bill and casque. Male differs from male Grey-cheeked Hornbill where they overlap by largely creamy bill and pointy casque and black band across white tail; also look for yellow (not reddish) bare skin around eye. Juvenile is similar to adult but almost casqueless and bill smaller. 

Voice: The call is a series of harsh, 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 up to an elevation of 1,000 m, but also found in closed secondary forest and nearby plantations. It feeds mainly on fruits, which constitute about 92% of diet. It takes fruits from at least 38 plant genera and 18 different families, including fig, nutmegs, rattan and oil-palm fruits. It feeds high, 25-50 m up in the large forest trees where it also picks up some prey such as insects and other birds and their nestlings; it flies out to hawk flying insects, especially termite and ant alates. In Uganda it has been reported to raid weaver birds’ nests, tearing the nests apart and eating eggs and chicks. Usually 2-3 birds visit a fruiting tree together, probably a family group. This species often mixes with other hornbills and animals in good fruiting trees, and it is dominant over the smaller sympatric Piping Hornbill but not the larger Black-casqued Hornbill or monkeys. It may stay up to 1 hr and 15 min in the feeding tree and eat 2-3 fruits per min. Home ranges of up to 4,500 ha have been measured, but it roams far to find fruiting trees, as far as 290 km, and also visits plantations and free standing trees nearby forest, making it highly but erratically nomadic outside of the breeding season, with twelve-fold variations in local abundance in Cameroon.