name = Hornbills

image_width = 204px
image_caption = Abyssinian Ground-hornbill "Bucorvus abyssinicus"
regnum = Animalia
phylum = Chordata
classis = Aves
ordo = Coraciiformes (but see text)
familia = Bucerotidae
familia_authority = Rafinesque, 1815
subdivision_ranks = Genera
subdivision =

Hornbills (family Bucerotidae) are a group of birds characterized by a long, down-curved bill, sometimes with a casque on the upper mandible. Frequently, the bill is brightly coloured. Many of the birds are now endangered. Some species of hornbill are protected in Malaysia. Both the common English and the scientific name of the family refer to the shape of the bill, "buceros" being "cow horn" in Greek. In addition, they possess a two-lobed kidney. Hornbills are the only birds in which the first two neck vertebrae (the axis and atlas) are fused together; this probably provides a more stable platform for carrying the billcite book |editor=Forshaw, Joseph|author= Kemp, Alan|year=1991|title=Encyclopaedia of Animals: Birds|publisher= Merehurst Press|location=London|pages= 149-151|isbn= 1-85391-186-0] .

Composition and relationships

The Bucerotidae include some 57 living species, about 10 of them endemic to the southern part of Africa. Their distribution ranges from Africa south of the Sahara through tropical Asia to the Philippines and Solomon Islands. Most are arboreal birds of dense forest, but the large ground-hornbills ("Bucorvus"), as their name implies, are terrestrial birds of open savanna.

There are two subfamilies: the Bucorvinae contain the 2 ground-hornbills in a single genus, whereas the Bucerotinae contain all other taxa. In the Sibley-Ahlquist taxonomy, hornbills are separated from the Coraciiformes as a separate order Bucerotiformes, with the subfamilies elevated to family level. Given that they are almost as distant from the rollers, kingfishers and allies as are the trogons (Johansson & Ericson 2003), the arrangement chosen is more a matter of personal taste than any well-established taxonomic practice. All that can be said with reasonable certainty is that placing the hornbills outside the Coraciiformes and the trogons inside would be incorrect.


The most distinctive feature of the hornbills is the heavy bill, supported by powerful neck muscles as well as by the fused vertebrae. The large bill assists in fighting, preening, and constructing the nest, as well as catching prey. Where present, the casque on the upper mandible appears to serve no function beyond reinforcing the bill in most species. In the Black-casqued Hornbill, however, it is hollow and serves as a resonator.

The plumage of hornbills is typically black, grey, white, or brown, although typically offset by bright colours on the bill, or patches of bare coloured skin on the face or wattles. Some species exhibit sexual dichromatism; in the Abyssinian Ground-hornbill, for example, pure blue skin on the face and throat denotes an adult female, and red and blue skin denotes an adult male. The calls of hornbills are loud, and vary distinctly between different species.

Hornbills are omnivorous birds, eating fruit, insects and small animals. They cannot swallow food caught at the tip of the beak as their tongues are too short to manipulate it, so they toss it back to the throat with a jerk of the head. They range in size from the Black Dwarf Hornbill ("Tockus hartlaubi"), at 102 grams (3.6 oz) and 30 cm (1 foot), to the Southern Ground-hornbill ("Bucorvus leadbeateri"), at up to 6.2 kg (13.6 lbs) and 1.2 m (4 feet). Males are about 18% larger than females on average.

Hornbills generally form monogamous pairs, defending a fixed territory. The female lays up to six white eggs in existing holes or crevices, either in trees or rocks. Before incubation, the females of all Bucorvinae—sometimes assisted by the male—begin to close the entrance to the nest cavity with a wall made of mud, droppings and fruit pulp. When the female is ready to lay her eggs, the entrance is just large enough for it to enter the nest, and after she has done so, the remaining opening is also all but sealed shut. There is only one narrow aperture, big enough for the male to transfer food to the mother and the chicks. During the incubation period the female undergoes a complete moult. When the chicks and the female are too big to fit in the nest, the mother breaks out, then both parents feed the chicks. In some species the mother rebuilds the wall, whereas in others the chicks themselves rebuild the wall unaided. The ground-hornbills are conventional cavity-nesters instead.

pecies list in taxonomic order

This is a list of hornbill species, presented in taxonomic order.

Subfamily "Bucerotinae

* Genus "Tropicranus" (sometimes included in "Tockus")
** White-crested Hornbill "Tropicranus albocristatus"

* Genus "Tockus"
** Black Dwarf Hornbill "Tockus hartlaubi"
** Red-billed Dwarf Hornbill "Tockus camurus"
** Monteiro's Hornbill "Tockus monteiri"
** Red-billed Hornbill "Tockus erythrorhynchus"
** Eastern Yellow-billed Hornbill "Tockus flavirostris"
** Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill "Tockus leucomelas"
** Jackson's Hornbill "Tockus jacksoni"
** Von der Decken's Hornbill "Tockus deckeni"
** Crowned Hornbill "Tockus alboterminatus"
** Bradfield's Hornbill "Tockus bradfieldi"
** African Pied Hornbill "Tockus fasciatus"
** Hemprich's Hornbill "Tockus hemprichii"
** African Grey Hornbill "Tockus nasutus"

*Genus "Ocyceros"
** Malabar Grey Hornbill "Ocyceros griseus"
** Ceylon Grey Hornbill "Ocyceros gingalensis"
** Indian Grey-Hornbill "Ocyceros biostris"

*Genus "Anthracoceros"
** Malabar Pied Hornbill "Anthracoceros coronatus"
** Oriental Pied Hornbill "Anthracoceros albirostris"
** Black Hornbill "Anthracoceros malayanus"
** Palawan Hornbill "Antracoceros marchei"

*Genus "Buceros"
** Rhinoceros Hornbill "Buceros rhinoceros"
** Great Hornbill "Buceros bicornis"
** Rufous Hornbill "Buceros hydrocorax"

*Genus "Rhinoplax" (sometimes included in "Buceros")
** Helmeted Hornbill "Rhinoplax vigil"

*Genus "Anorrhinus"
** Austen's Brown Hornbill, "Anorrhinus austeni"
** Tickell's Brown Hornbill, "Anorrhinus tickelli"
** Bushy-crested Hornbill "Anorrhinus galeritus"

*Genus "Penelopides"
** Luzon Hornbill "Penelopides manillae"
** Mindoro Hornbill "Penelopides mindorensis"
** Visayan Hornbill "Penelopides panini"
** Samar Hornbill "Penelopides samarensis"
** Mindanao Hornbill "Penelopides affinis"
** Sulawesi Hornbill "Penelopides exarhatus"

*Genus "Berenicornis" (sometimes included in "Aceros")
** White-crowned Hornbill "Berenicornis comatus"

*Genus "Aceros"
** Rufous-necked Hornbill "Aceros nipalensis"
** Wrinkled Hornbill "Aceros corrugatus"
** Writhed Hornbill "Aceros leucocephalus"
** Rufous-headed Hornbill "Aceroswaldeni"
** Knobbed Hornbill "Aceros cassidix"

*Genus "Rhyticeros" (sometimes included in "Aceros")
** Wreathed Hornbill "Rhyticeros undulatus"
** Narcondam Hornbill Rhyticeros narcondami"
** Sumba Hornbill "Rhyticeros everetti"
** Plain-pouched Hornbill "Rhyticeros subruficollis"
** Papuan Hornbill "Rhyticeros plicatus"

*Genus "Bycanistes" (sometimes included in "Ceratogymna").
** Trumpeter Hornbill "Bycanistes bucinator"
** Piping Hornbill "Bycanistes fistulator"
** Silvery-cheeked Hornbill "Bycanistes brevis"
** Black-and-white-casqued Hornbill "Bycanistes subcylindricus"
** Brown-cheeked Hornbill "Bycanistes cylindricus"
** White-thighed Hornbill "Bycanistes albotibialis"

* Genus "Ceratogymna"
** Black-casqued Hornbill "Ceratogymna atrata"
** Yellow-casqued Hornbill "Ceratogymna elata"

Subfamily "Bucorvinae

*Genus "Bucorvus"
** Abyssinian Ground-Hornbill "Bucorvus abyssinicus"
** Southern Ground-Hornbill "Bucorvus leadeateri"

Cultural significance

Most species' casques are very light, containing a good deal of airspace. However, the Helmeted Hornbill has a solid casque made of a material called hornbill ivory, which is greatly valued as a carving material in China and Japan. It is often used as a medium for the art of netsuke.

A "Tockus" hornbill was the model for Zazu from the movies "The Lion King", "The Lion King 2", and "The Lion King 1 1/2".


* Johansson, Ulf S. & Ericson, Per G. P. (2003): Molecular support for a sister group relationship between Pici and Galbulae (Piciformes sensu Wetmore 1960). "J. Avian Biol." 34(2): 185–197. doi|10.1034/j.1600-048X.2003.03103.x [http://www.nrm.se/download/18.4e32c81078a8d9249800021325/Johansson%2520&%2520Ericson%2520-%2520Piciformes%5B1%5D.pdf PDF fulltext]

* Kemp, Alan C. & Woodcock, Martin (1995): "The Hornbills: Bucerotiformes". Oxford University Press, Oxford, New York. ISBN 0-19-857729-X

* Maclean, Gordon Lindsay & Roberts, Austin (1988): "Roberts' Birds of Southern Africa" (Revised Edition). Hyperion Books. ISBN 1853680370

* Wallace, Alfred Russel (1863): " [http://www.wku.edu/~smithch/wallace/S079.htm The Bucerotidæ, or Hornbills] ". "The Intellectual Observer" June 1863: 309–316.

*Zimmerman, Dale A., Turner, Donald A., & Pearson, David J. (1999): "Birds of Kenya and Northern Tanzania" (Field Guide Edition). Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-01022-6

External links

* [http://ibc.hbw.com/ibc/phtml/familia.phtml?idFamilia=97 Hornbill videos] on the Internet Bird Collection
* [http://www.itis.gov/servlet/SingleRpt/SingleRpt?search_topic=TSN&search_value=553435 ITIS Taxonometric Report Data]
* [http://www.birding.in/orders/bucerotiformes.htm Birds of India website]

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  • Hornbill — Horn bill , n. (Zo[ o]l.) Any bird of the family {Bucerotid[ae]}, of which about sixty species are known, belonging to numerous genera. They inhabit the tropical parts of Asia, Africa, and the East Indies, and are remarkable for having a more or… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • hornbill — 1773, from HORN (Cf. horn) (n.) + BILL (Cf. bill) (2) …   Etymology dictionary

  • hornbill — ► NOUN ▪ a tropical bird with a horn like structure on its large curved bill …   English terms dictionary

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  • hornbill — /hawrn bil /, n. any large bird of the family Bucerotidae, of the Old World tropics, characterized by a very large bill usually surmounted by a horny protuberance. [1765 75; HORN + BILL2] * * * Any of about 45 species of Old World tropical birds… …   Universalium

  • hornbill — UK [ˈhɔː(r)nˌbɪl] / US [ˈhɔrnˌbɪl] noun [countable] Word forms hornbill : singular hornbill plural hornbills a tropical bird with a large beak …   English dictionary

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  • Hornbill ivory — (also called golden jade ) is a precious ornamental material derived from the Helmeted Hornbill ( Buceros vigil ), a large bird of the Malay Peninsula, Sumatra, and Borneo.Many hornbill species have casques , decorative growths on the upper… …   Wikipedia

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