Yellow-billed Hornbill

The Yellow-billed Hornbill is characterized by a long yellow beak

South Africa BirdlifeThe Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill {Tockus leucomelas}

The Yellow-billed Hornbill is a common resident in South Africa. They are commonly seen in scrub and dry woodland areas, particularly in the Kruger National Park.

The Yellow-billed Hornbill is a medium sized bird, with length between 48 to 60 cm, characterized by a long yellow beak with a casque (only in males).

The skin around the eyes and in the malar stripe is vivid red-coloured. White belly, grey neck, and black back with abundant white spots and stripes.

Quick Facts


Weight: 1,7 to 2,8 kgs.
Length: 48 to 60 cm.
Wingspan: 182-215 cm.


Dry thorn fields and broad leafed woodlands.


The Yellow-billed Hornbill is common and widespread in South Africa particularly in the Kruger National Park and surrounding reserves.


An Omnivorous bird, the Yellow-billed Hornbill feeds mainly on the ground surface, where they forage for seeds, small insects, spiders and scorpions. Termites and ants are a preferred food source in the dry season.


Yellow-billed hornbills are monogamous and will live in breeding pairs or small family groups.


They have a very distinctive cluck-clucking call. When a single bird starts clucking, very soon the entire group will join, creating a cacophony of bird sound. Its calls also include whistles, grunts, cackling and gritting.


They nest in natural tree holes about 12 metres above ground. Females lay 3 to 4 white eggs in their nest cavities. The female seals herself and the eggs inside the hollow (with her own faeces), leaving a small hole through which her mate will feed her. After the eggs hatch she leaves the nest open with a small cavity, through which she feeds her young. Juveniles take about 45 days to mature.


Incubation lasts 25 days.

Life Expectancy

Up to 20 years (confirmation required).


Birds of prey including the Lanner Falcon, Bateleur and Martial Eagles, Secretary birds.
Snakes take the eggs and young.


Sabi Sabi Game Reserve; Birdlife International; Biodiversity Explorer.


Yellow-billed Hornbill
Conservation Status

  • Least Concern

Did you know?

The Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill has been made famous by the movie The Lion King, where it is used as a character named Zazu.

They have been given the moniker "flying bananas" because of the large yellow bill that resembles a banana.

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