Tockus leucomelas - The Yellow-billed Hornbill

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.

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.

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).

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

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.


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.

It can also be seen at the Timbavati Game Reserve, Sabi Sands Game Reserve, Klaserie Game Reserve, and Manyeleti Game Reserve.


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.

Wish you were here?

Lion Sands Ivory Lodge

  • Property TypeGame Lodge
  • Guests16
  • Rooms/Units8
View and book

Where to see Yellow-billed Hornbill in their natural habitat?

Want to see yellow-billed hornbill in their natural habitat? In South Africa, find yellow-billed hornbill in these and other reserves and parks...

Conservation Status
Yellow-billed Hornbill
Kruger Park's Big 6 Birds
South Africa. Explore. Experience. Stay® has been assisting travellers with their South Africa travel plans since 1999, and is the largest, independent online travel guide for South Africa available in both English and German.