Silvery-cheeked Hornbill

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Is the Silvery-cheeked Hornbill right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: N/A

Scientific name: Bycanistes brevis

The basics:
The Silvery-cheeked Hornbill is a rare and challenging species in aviculture. In addition to the usual challenges presented by hornbills, including a need for lots of space, these birds may be prone to iron storage disease, so they demand special attention to the diet and a good relationship with a knowledgeable avian vet. Therefore, it is recommended to experts only.

This hornbill is a social African bird of the moist forests that has a wide range across eastern and southern Africa. This species is extremely social and has been seen gathered at roosts in flocks numbering at least one hundred individuals. Its genus has changed, and much information will be found about this bird under the older name, Ceratogymna brevis.

The large mostly black Silvery-cheeked Hornbill has plenty of not particularly noticeable silvery spots on its face, but what makes the bird stand out is its huge cream-colored casque, which is somewhat smaller in the females.

1000 - 1450 grams (35 - 51 oz.)

Average size:
75 - 80 centimeters (29.5 - 31.5 in.)

20 - 25 years

Behavior / temperament:
The Silvery-cheeked Hornbill species has a strong pair-bond. The female will seal herself into the nestlog while incubating the eggs and starting the young birds, knowing that she can rely on her devoted mate to bring a steady supply of food.

They enjoy playing with the appropriate parrot toys, but consider the size of the Silvery-cheeked Hornbill. A birdsafe toy appropriate for a powerful macaw will work.

The arboreal Silvery-cheeked Hornbill demands a huge, well-planted aviary that includes plenty of room to perch up high. This species has also been observed playing with birdsafe toys. Keep in the mind the power of the bill, and choose an item that you would consider safe for a large, powerful macaw, even if the bird completely destroyed the toy. Don't house them with any other species unless you are highly experienced with creating mixed-species exhibits, because they can help themselves to the young birds of other species. A bird that couldn't get away might become a meal.

If you have paired your birds, get advice from more experienced breeders about the proper size and placement of the nestlog. Like all hornbills, Silvery-cheeks need to be protected from the cold and damp, but they will appreciate the ability to get some sunlight.

The Silvery-cheeked Hornbill is a highly frugivorous species that does take some insects, as well as whatever protein such as small lizards, rodents, or nestlings, that it might happen to encounter. There is some concern with iron storage disease in this species, and keepers are advised to follow standard iron storage disease precautions, including the use of specially formulated low iron softbill pellets and the avoidance of fruits high in ascorbic acid, such as tomatoes, citrus fruit, and pineapples. These fruits are known to improve the body's ability to absorb iron, a bad thing for this species.

Most recommended diets include chopped fruit, a good vitamin rich vegetable like chopped cooked yam, low iron softbill pellets, a high quality dog or cat kibble, and a variety of live insects including mealworms and crickets. A homemade live insect trap might be advisable to supplement the variety of live insects that you can purchase from commercial dealers.

The chopped fruit salad should contain a generous blend of fruits that are high in water – such as apple, kiwi, cherry, grapes, berries – and fruits that are rich in nutrients, such as soaked raisins. Chopped banana, papaya, and passionfruit are also good additions to the diet. Never emphasize only the high water fruits, because they are not nutrient-dense enough on their own.

Written by Elaine Radford

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