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Abyssinian Ground Hornbill

Bucorvus abyssinicus

Family:

Bucorvidae, ground hornbill family

Conservation Status:

Least concern, IUCN

Distribution:

Northeast Africa

Habitat:

Savannas and dry regions with low grass

Factoid:

“Eyelashes” are modified feathers.

It is a very large black bird 3 ½ to 4 ft. long. Has an 8” long bill with a horny projection called a casque open in the front in this species. Bill looks heavy and cumbersome but it is really very light due to “honeycomb” interior. Large dark eyes with long sweeping eyelashes are thought to serve as sunshades for walking in bright sunshine. Bare neck skin is blue, turns red with age in males. Short wings, long tail, strong legs, short claws are aids for walking.

Expert at manipulating objects with its long bill. Food items often tossed in the air before swallowed. Poisonous prey (snakes, centipedes or scorpions) are held in the very tip of the bill and repeatedly squeezed and crushed along with their whole length, back and forth, especially at both ends. Can catch and kill large snakes such as puff adders. Will also use bill like a pickaxe to dig for wasp nest.

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