Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill

Southern Yellow-billed Hornbills are quite a common bird in the savanna bushland and indeed around camp at KwaMbili. Many people know of them as Zazoo from the movie The Lion King. These birds are omnivorous, eating anything from seeds in dung to insects and smaller reptiles – as we witnessed this past week when we found a hornbill eating the head of a chameleon. They also lift up old dung and sticks to get at termites. They are monogamous (one mate for life) and live in breeding pairs or small family groups. When the breeding season begins, the male feeds the female for up to a month, bringing her small pieces of food in his mouth. Once they have mated, the pair will look for a hole in a tree where the female will make a nest, using only the feathers from her own body. While the female is making the nest the male collects mud to start closing the entrance, leaving only a small hole so he can bring food to her while she incubates the eggs. And they will also use the same small hole as a toilet so as to keep the nest as clean as possible. The Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill is sometimes known as the “flying banana” due to its large banana-shaped yellow bill.