Welcome to the 22nd edition of Shakati’s Bush Facts. In this edition we will be focusing on the African Grey Hornbill. Its distinctive call makes the bush seems alive with sound, and thus makes it one of the most sought after birds at Shakati Private Game Reserve. The African Grey Hornbill is a very frequent visitor to Shakati.

You can usually hear the African Grey Hornbill by its piping pee-o pee-o pee-o call.



African Grey Hornbill (19)

The African Grey Hornbill (Tockus nasutus) is identidentified in Robert’s 7th edition: bird number 457 and commonly known by the following names:

Grysneushoringvoël [Afrikaans]; Munkono [Kwangali]; Goto, Hoto (generic names for hornbill) [Shona]; Umkhotfo (generic term for hornbill) [Swazi]; Nkorho (generic term for smaller hornbills) [Tsonga]; Kôrwê [Tswana]; Grijze tok [Dutch]; Calao à bec noir [French]; Grautoko [German]; Calau-cinzento [Portuguese]




The male and female African Grey Hornbill plumage and colours differs slightly from each other. Some of the identification features of the African Grey Hornbill:

  • Head: Grey
  • Eye: Red
  • Bill: Grey/ Yellow or Red patch
  • Throat: Grey
  • Back: Brownish Grey
  • Legs: Brown

It has mainly grey plumage, but the head, flight feathers and long tail are a darker shade. There is a white line down each side of the head and one on the back which is visible only in flight. The long curved bill is black and has a small casque and a creamy horizontal stripe. The male has a black bill, whereas the female has red on the mandibles. The plumage of the male and female is similar. Immature birds are more uniformly grey.


Habitat and Diet

African Grey Hornbill (6)

The African Grey Hornbill occurs throughout the savannas of sub-Saharan Africa. In southern Africa it is locally common in Zimbabwe, Botswana, northern Namibia, Mozambique, northern South Africa and KwaZulu-Natal. It generally prefers wooded savannas and woodland, ranging from woodlands and grasslands and riverine areas.

African Grey Hornbill (12)

The African Grey Hornbill primarily feeds on rodents, tree frogs, arachnids, insects, crickets and grasshoppers, beetles, moths, fruit, wild figs, corkwoods and peanuts.



African Grey Hornbill - Female (11)

The African Grey Hornbill is a monogamous bird which means that the bird finds and breeds with one partner for the rest of its life. The bird lay’s between 3 to 4 eggs and they are coloured white. It usually nests in natural holes in tree trunks or branches; once a site has been selected the female seals it from the inside with her own faeces. Most of its nests have a “chimney” or “funk-hole”, which a tunnel is leading out from the cavity that the female moves into if it feels threatened. It occasionally nests in rock crevices, barbet-made tree holes and nest boxes.



African Grey Hornbill (16)

The African Grey Hornbill is a non-threatened bird according to UCN Classification.



It is always special to hear the African Grey Hornbill in the Shakati Private Game reserve bush, and we invite you to come and join us to experience this special bird.


See you next time!














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