Hornbills

There are many different types of hornbill, several of which are common in Kenya. They have a mixed diet of fruit and insects.

Hornbills are fascinating birds that are monogamous and have unusual nesting habits. They breed by lying eggs in the cavities of trees. They begin to close the entrance to the nest cavity with a wall made of mud, droppings and fruit pulp. When the female is ready to lay her eggs, the entrance is just large enough for her to enter the nest, and after she has done so the remaining opening is nearly sealed shut. There is only one narrow aperture just big enough for the male to transfer food to the mother and eventually the chicks. During the incubation period the female undergoes a complete moult.

When the chick [or chicks] are old enough the mud barrier is pecked away and they fly off. Whilst in Samburu Game Park recently we saw the start of this breaking out.

The narrow opening through which two beaks can be seen

The male feeding the mother through the enlarged hole

The first look at the outside world

Photographer Dr Claire Smithson consultant physician Maua Methodist Hospital trying out my new camera. Arrow shows the hornbill's small opening to the nest

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