The African Grey Hornbill, also known as Lophoceros nasutus, is a bird species categorized under the hornbill family of tropical near-passerine birds present in the Old World. Hornbills are known for the casque, hollow structures that sit on top of their bills. These structures are known to support the bills, as well as enhance the birds’ vocal calls. The African Grey Hornbill’s relatives include the Malabar Grey Hornbill, Knobbed Hornbill, Great Hornbill, Red-billed Hornbill, and Indian Grey Hornbill.
Endemic to Sub-Saharan Africa and some parts of Arabia, the African Grey Hornbill is believed to have escaped or been deliberately released in to Florida, USA, but there is still no present evidence that the Grey Hornbill population is breeding in the said area.
This bird species was first described by the father of modern taxonomy, Carl Linnaeus, in 1766. Since this bird species occur in a wide range and their population appears to be on a stable rise, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) listed them as Least Concern.
Its seven levels of classification are as follows:
Species: L. nasutus
The physical characteristics of an African Grey Hornbill
An adult African Grey Hornbill measures from 45 to 50 cm in length and weighs between 160 to 250 g. This bird species is considered a large bird, although in the hornbill family, it is smaller than most species. Its flight is described as smooth wave-like motion.
The African Grey Hornbill possesses a dark grey and brown plumage with white underparts and white outer edges along the tail feathers and wings. Male African Grey Hornbills have black beaks and casques with white stripes on the underside and a white patch located on the upper section. On the other hand, female African Grey Hornbills have beaks with black lower parts, cream casque and upper parts, and orange-red tips.
Immature African Grey Hornbills have uniform grey plumage and undulating flights.
The distribution and habitat of African Grey Hornbills
African Grey Hornbills are endemic to central and southern African regions, particularly in countries such as Senegal, Guinea, Ghana, Burkina, Nigeria, Central African Republic, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Namibia, Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania, Botswana, Angola, Namibia, Mozambique, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. They can also be sighted in the southwest region of Arabia. African Grey Hornbills frequent a wide range of habitats such as woodland savannahs and savannahs with trees.
The behavior of an African Grey Hornbill
Just like other hornbill species, the African Grey Hornbill is a diurnal bird, meaning it is more active in daytime than nighttime. It travels with a pair or in small family groups. Larger groups are usually formed outside the breeding season. This bird species is known for its distinct vocalizations that sounds like “pee-o pee-o pee-o.”
African Grey Hornbills usually form monogamous pairs, although some individuals engage in cooperative breeding. During the breeding season, African Grey Hornbills nest in tree cavities. They close off the entrances of these nests with a cement derived from mud, droppings, and fruit pulps, while they incubate the eggs inside. Both male and female parents do this nest trick so they can keep predators at bay.
The female African Grey Hornbill will lay an average clutch of two to four white eggs. The male African Grey Hornbill will feed the female and their young by transferring the food through its mouth down to the esophagus. When the young are too big to fit in the nest, the female African Grey Hornbill will break the nest and rebuild it wherein everyone can fit in comfortably. Again, the female will leave a small entrance. Both male and female African Grey Hornbills will feed their offspring until the day they become independent.
The diet of an African Grey Hornbill
This bird species is an omnivorous bird, feeding on fruits, insects, reptiles, and small animals. It mainly forages in trees where fruits and insects are abundant. The African Grey Hornbill cannot swallow food that is caught at the tip of its beak because its tongue is too short to manipulate it. What it does is it tosses it back to the throat with a jerk of the head.
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