Species group: Hornbills
Other common names: N/A
Scientific name: Bycanistes bucinator
The Trumpeter Hornbill is not entirely easy to find in captivity, although it has been bred rather often over the years by big collections like zoos. 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. There are examples of individuals being kept and trained as pets who were delighted to perform tricks. However, considering the rarity of this species in aviculture, it is currently recommended to dedicated experts only.
The Trumpeter Hornbill has a wide range in various moist lowland forests in central, eastern, and southern Africa. Highly social, it has been seen gathered at roosts holding dozens of birds.Its genus has changed, and much information will be found about this bird under the older name, Ceratogymna bucinator.
The striking Trumpeter Hornbill stands out because of its deep black upperparts and breast, combined with a snow-white belly and white rump. There is a dark casque atop the thick dark bill. Males are substantially bigger than their mates.
Male: 610 - 940 grams (21.5 - 33 oz.)
Female: 450 - 670 grams (16 - 24 oz.)
58 - 65 centimeters (23 - 25.5 in.)
20 - 25 years
Behavior / temperament:
The Trumpeter Hornbill 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.
Although it would be rare to find a hand-raised or domestic-bred Trumpeter Hornbill young enough to train, past owners report that these birds are highly intelligent. They will learn to catch grapes or other tricks, and they can become very devoted to their keeper. A highly social bird, they should never be neglected or isolated.
As a rather popular zoo animal, this social species has been housed in mixed-species exhibits, but you must be very careful. Lots of plants and cover, lots of space, and lots of feeding platforms and nest cavities are the way to go if you try this. And there's simply no substitution for careful observation. For most people, the most practical choice will be to house the pairs in their own aviary, especially during the breeding season.
The arboreal Trumpeter Hornbill demands a huge, well-planted aviary that includes plenty of room to perch up high. 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, Trumpeters need to be protected from the cold and damp, but they will appreciate the ability to get some sunlight.
The Trumpeter 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
favourite bird, incredibly fun
high value grapes, red target stick, shiny hair scrunches
Specialised bird but will capture your heart
I currently work with two male Trumpeter hornbills, both 3 years old. They are actually my favourite bird to work with. This is due to their temperament. Both of the hornbills are incredibly fun, curious, easy going and social. My two are hand reared but the breeding pair at my work, who were parent reared, are also quite social with humans.
However, as with all soft bills, they can be hard to look after and expensive.
Both my hornbills get a mix of fruit and a pellet known as T16. T16 is very expensive but is a must with these birds. Care must be taken with these birds because, just like toucans, they are prone to iron storage disease, fruits that are too high in iron or vitamin C (which encourages iron absorption) can lead to this and so a lot of research needs to be done on their diet before you acquire your bird.
Food should be monitored as they enjoy eating and don't seem to have a stop button and so can become overweight easily.
Hand reared birds are best for a pet environment. In the wild they are monogamous and highly social and so require lots of attention. If ignored they will let out their very loud, nasally call that they are named after! Older males can get a bit aggressive and Jake has become aggressive towards other people at certain times of the year, however he's always been fine with me. Their beaks are blunt so biting isn't such an issue, but they can hit you with the end of their beak quite painfully!
When very over excited he vibrates the side of his beak against me.
They particularly like tactile. Stroking and scratching is a great way to build up a bond. Jake will often lean and move his head to get you to scratch him in a particular place.
Both of my hornbills are target trained using a red target stick and a clicker. They're very clever and learnt this very quickly. I use this to have them free flying as I will direct them to different perches using the target. They are generally quite focused but love being nosey so if someone comes up wearing a bright colour or something shiny they can get easily distracted! I've also trained them to catch grapes that I throw in the air. They are trained for pieces of cut up grape, which aren't put in their main food. You really don't need to 'weight train' these guys, because even if they have their main food bowl in front of them, they will still work for the high value grapes.
I've yet to train them to do anything else, however I do think they are capable of learning behaviours similar to parrots, such as opening their wings on command.
They are a great bird and yet easily distracted! Taking photos of them is hard as they will try to eat the phone/camera. They also grab at shiny hair scrunches, rings, necklaces, earrings (which hurts!). They'll often try to eat these 'exciting' things so letting them free in your house would probably not be a good idea.
They have some of the worst poo of all my birds, its very liquid-y and smells very bad. They just go wherever they see fit and so need cleaning out every day.
The aggression in breeding season can vary between individuals, I've been lucky with my two but they are still young. They've had scrapes with each other in the past and hornbills have been known to kill each other in fights so as a pet its better to just have one. They are not recommended near other animals for this reason as well.
Overall they make a great pet but only for someone practised at having birds. They are not an inside pet and so a very large outside aviary would be needed. Plenty of social interaction is a must..
From ChrissyHornbill Apr 25 2015 11:12AM