Von der Decken's hornbill

Class: Aves
Order: Coraciiformes
Family: Bucerotidae
Genus and Species: Tockus deckeni
  • A bright red long beak adorns a black-and-white bird
  • Perched on a rock, this medium-sized bird shows off its decurved beak
  • The head is white and contrasts with a bright red beak
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Von der Decken's hornbill

A hornbill native to dry regions of eastern Africa, Von der Decken hornbills sport large bills: red for the males, black for the females. Like other species of hornbills, the female will bury herself alive to hatch and rear the chicks, with the male feeding her and the chicks through a slit in their mud nest for two months.

Physical Description

Most hornbills are ungainly looking with large, often colorful, beaks and long eyelashes. Male Von der Decken hornbills have a red and cream colored bill, while females will have a solid black bill. Von der Decken hornbills are named a German explorer, Baron Karl Klaus von der Decken, who wrote about the species while exploring in Africa.


Von der Decken's hornbills can reach 2 feet (60 centimeters) in length.

Native Habitat

Von der Decken hornbills live in eastern Africa, occupying parts of Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya and Tanzania. They prefer dry, arid conditions, including scrublands, savannas and open bush habitats.

Food/Eating Habits

In the wild they eat small ground prey, eggs, fruits and insects.

At the Smithsonian's National Zoo, they are fed a mix of Bird of Paradise diet, fruit, eggs, pinkies and mealworms.

Reproduction and Development

Hornbills are known for their unique breeding habits. Males find a tree cavity and entice females by bringing her mudding material and food gifts. Females do the mudding using dirt and feces, which turns rock-hard when dried. Females then enter the cavity before mudding up the entrance until just a slim slit is left open. For over two months, males feed the trapped female and the chicks when they hatch, through the small vertical slit. Females break out about two weeks before the young in order to help feed them. When the young emerge, they are fully flighted, though their parents will continue to offer them food for another week.


Von der Decken's hornbills can live for about 20 years.

This species of hornbill has an extremely large range. While populations are generally decreasing, due to a loss of large trees that are suitable to nest in, they are still considered widespread.