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Bycanistes bucinator (Trumpeter hornbill) 

Gewone boskraai [Afrikaans]; Ilithwa [Xhosa]; iKhunatha [Zulu]; Gangambudzi [Shona]; Umkhotfo (generic term for hornbill) [Swazi]; Nkorho (generic term for smaller hornbills) [Tsonga]; Krw [Tswana]; Trompetneushoornvogel [Dutch]; Calao trompette [French]; Trompeter-hornvogel [German]; Calau-trombeteiro [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 bucinator (Trumpeter hornbill) 

Trumpeter Hornbill. [photo Jeff Poklen ]

Bycanistes bucinator (Trumpeter hornbill)  Bycanistes bucinator (Trumpeter hornbill) 

Trumpeter hornbill, Kruger National Park, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ]

Trumpeter Hornbill. [photo Jeff Poklen ]

The Trumpeter hornbill occurs from Kenya and Angola to southern Africa, where it is locally common in warm, coastal lowland forest, especially near watercourses. It mainly eats small fruit, but it does on occasion hawk insects, especially termite alates and may even eat bird eggs and nestlings. It normally uses natural holes in trees as nesting sites, which the female then seals with mud and faeces collected by the male, leaving a small entrance hole. The female remains in the nest from when the eggs are laid, through the incubation and nestling periods to when the chicks fledge, a period of about 94 days!

Distribution and habitat

Occurs from Kenya and Angola to the eastern half of southern Africa, including Zimbabwe, Caprivi Strip (Namibia), Mozambique and eastern South Africa. It generally prefers warm coastal lowland forest, often near watercourses, although often flying across other habitats on its way to new forest patches.

Distribution of Trumpeter 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). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  


It mainly eats small fruit supplemented with insects, especially termite alates. It often spends the day in a single fruiting tree, foraging in it before moving to a different site the next day. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

  • Plants
    • fruit
      • Ficus (wild figs)
      • Trichilia (mahogonies)
      • Ekebergia (ashes)
      • Diospyros (jackal-berry)
      • Drypetes (ironwoods)
      • Rauvolfia caffra (Quinine tree)
      • Berchemia (ivories)
      • Xanthocercis zambesiaca (Nyala-tree)
      • Afzelia quanzensis (Pod-mahogany)
      • Rhoicissus (wild grapes)
      • Antidesma (tassel-berries)
      • Monanthotaxis caffra (Dwaba-berry)
      • Pterocarpus (bloodwoods)
      • Strychnos (monkey-oranges)
      • cultivated fruit
        • guavas
        • litchis
        • pawpaw
    • flowers of Schotia brachpetala (Weeping boer-bean)
  • Animals


  • It normally uses natural holes in trees as nesting sites. Once a site has been selected the female then seals it with mud and faeces collected by the male, leaving a small slit.  It sometimes uses holes in rock faces, although not often.
  • Egg-laying season is from September-January, peaking from October-November.
  • It lays 2-4 eggs, which are incubated solely by the female for roughly 24 days. The male forages for the female, giving food to her through the entrance slit.
  • The chicks stay in the nest for at least 50 days, remaining near the nest for about a week before joining the parents in foraging flights. The female stays in the nest from when the eggs are laid to when the chicks fledge, a period of about 94 days!


Not threatened, although vulnerable to forest exploitation.


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