home   about   search

biodiversity explorer

the web of life in southern Africa

Bycanistes brevis (Silvery-cheeked hornbill) 

Kuifkopboskraai [Afrikaans]; Zilveroor-neushoornvogel [Dutch]; Calao joues argent [French]; Schopfhornvogel, Silbenwangen-hornvogel [German]; Calau-de-crista [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Bucerotiformes > Family: Bucerotidae

Bycanistes brevis (Silvery-cheeked hornbill)   

Silvery-cheeked hornbill, Tanzania. [photo Martin Goodey ]


Distribution and habitat

Occurs in patches from Ethiopia, through Kenya and Tanzania to northern and central Mozambique. It generally prefers patches of montane and coastal forest patches, as well as tall woodland and gallery forest.

Bycanistes brevis (Silvery-cheeked hornbill)

Distribution of Silvery-cheeked hornbill in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project ( Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common).

Predators and parasites

Movements and migrations

Nomadic, moving in search of fruiting trees.


Mainly eats fruit, doing most of its foraging in the forest canopy, plucking fruit and occasionally catching prey such as bats and insects. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

  • Plants
    • fruit
      • Ficus (figs)
      • Syzygium (waterberries)
      • Dracaena (dragon-trees)
      • Newtonia (newtonias)
      • Khaya anthotheca (Red mahogany)
      • Strychnos (monkey-oranges)
    • flowers of Cussonia spicata (Cabbage tree)
  • Animals


  • Monogamous solitary nester, defending a small territory in the immediate vicinity of the nest.
  • The nest is a natural cavity in a trunk or large branch of a tree, such as Mountain craibia (Craibia brevicaudata), often reused in multiple breeding seasons. The entrance is sealed with mud pellets with the female inside, leaving just a thin slot through which the male can pass food.
  • Egg-laying season is from September-April.
  • It lays 1-2 eggs, which are incubated solely by the female for about 40 days, while the male brings her food regularly.
  • The chicks and female are fed by the male throughout the 77-80 day long nestling period; at this point the seal is broken so that the female and fledglings can leave.


Vulnerable in Zimbabwe, largely due to its vulnerability to logging and slash-and-burn agriculture.


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town.