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red billed hornbill

The Tanzanian Red-Billed Hornbill (Tockus ruahae) is found in open, wooded savanna with sparse groundcover, especially areas heavily trampled by game or livestock, and feeds mostly on insects, small mammals, and rarely, on seeds and fruit. They are common on alluvial flood plains with occasional large trees, and in Mopane Colophospermum mopane woodland; wanders into more open habitats in dry season.


It is one of the smaller hornbill’s. The adult has a grey-brown head and grey neck with ear coverts streaked white.  It boasts a broad white post-orbital stripe, narrowly streaked grey, from above eye to nape. Its back is black with a central white stripe and underparts are white.  The coverts are sooty brown, each with a large white central spot, and the greater secondary coverts being mostly white.

The flight feathers are black with small white spots across the centre primaries, outer secondaries are black, inner secondaries white with a black base, retrials dark brown with narrow cream edges.  

The bill is red with a narrow yellow base. The eyes are yellow with black skin around the eye and facial skin pink. The legs and feet are grey.

The immature hornbill will look the same as the adult but the bill assumes the same colour as the adult within a year. The juvenile will be the same as the adult but with eyes that are grey, changing to brown as it ages. The bill is a bit small, but more orange with a black patch at the base of the lower mandible in both sexes. The wing coverts are finely edged buff. 


The Tanzanian Red-Billed Hornbill issues high, clucking notes, usually given in long series that accelerates and breaks into faster double notes during territorial Bobbing display, given with head down: kok kok kok kok kok kok kokok kokok kokok kokok

The first syllable of the double note is longer and more intense than the second. Shorter sequences or single notes are used when the hornbill is in alarm, contact or threat. It will make low growling sounds in close contact, screeches when frightened, and gives squark of fear when suddenly surprised. Chicks beg with high piping notes, and females and chicks give harsh squawks when receiving food.

General Habits

The hornbill is usually territorial, found in pairs or small family groups, but may gather in flocks in the dry season. It spends much time running about on ground; regularly sunbathes and dustbathes. It is known to fly with direct flap-and-glide, returning to roost in trees close to the trunk or large branches, and reverting nightly to a favourite roost in summer breeding territory.

Foraging & Food

Most food items are taken from the ground by the hornbill by digging with its bill in loosen soil, detritus or herbivore droppings. It rarely pursues prey on foot but feeds mainly on small insects, favouring beetles, ants, termites, or flies and their eggs or larvae. In summer, its diet is often supplemented with larger arthropods including grasshoppers, centipedes, termite alates, scorpions and solifugids. Sometimes it will eat small vertebrates including reptiles, or even birds’ eggs and nestlings (eg Crimson-breasted Shrike and Red-billed Quelea), or scavenges dead rodents. They will rarely eat small seeds and fruits, eg of Shepherds-trees (Boscia spp) and corkwoods (Commiphora spp).


The hornbill is a monogamous, solitary nester, and is territorial. Male and female display together, bobbing up and down with head bowed and wings held close to body.

They will nest in a natural cavity in a tree, 0.3-9 m up. The female will inspect the nest holes and is often courtship-fed and brought lining by the male. The nest entrance is often only 30-40 mm wide, sealed by the female from inside, using own faeces, to narrow, vertical slit 10-15 mm wide. Cavity 200-250 mm diameter. Most nests have an escape hole above the main chamber. 2 – 7 eggs will be laid over an interval of 2 – 4 days.  The female will remain on the nest during incubation and be fed by the male.

The female leaves the nest when oldest chick is 16 – 24 days and helps the male deliver food. The chicks will reseal the nest entrance. Nestling period is 39 – 50 days and then the hornbill chicks remain hidden near the nest for a few days after fledging before joining adults to forage.

If you wish to see the Tanzanian Red-Billed Hornbill on one of our tours, take a look at the following tours available to do this:



Contact us to book your birding experience at www.tanzaniabirding.com.

Source: Roberts Multimedia

Usambara owl

If you enjoy birding, you know how important it is to see the native species in a country, in real life. Sometimes this means taking a tour, as a specific tour to see the Usambara Eagle Owl where it lives, especially when the endemic areas of the threatened species are not prolific.

We take a look today at some of the birding facts of the Usambara Eagle Owl, which is an endemic species to Northern Tanzania.

10 Facts about the Usambara Eagle Owl

1. The ‘East African Nduk eagle-owl‘ or ‘Vosseier’s eagle-owl‘ are other names for the Usambara Eagle Owl.

2. It is a native species to Tanzania.

3. The habitat for this owl is in the Usambara Mountains in the northeast. The Uluguru Mountains and Nguru Mountains have been listed as possible sighting areas recently.

4. The family group is Strigidae, and the Genus is Bubo.

5. The Usambara Eagle Owl is strongly built with powerful talons and recognised for its size. It has tawny brown upperparts which are heavily barred with darker brown and creamy white underparts. The Usambara Owl has brown blotches on the breast and irregular black bars on the belly.


6. The breeding season is November to February and the owl is likely to nest in tree holes. There are usually two chicks produced, but rarely three or four will be born.

7. The natural habitat for the Usambara Eagle Owl is between 900 and 1,500 m (3,000 and 4,900 ft) above sea level, in the montane and submontane forests.

8. Its diet seems to be exclusively small mammals, for example rodents, insectivores and possibly dwarf bushbabies.

9. This owl has prominent tawny brown tufted ears.

10. Due to habitat loss, the species is classified as threatened.

Now that you have the identifying characteristics and potential whereabouts of the Usambara Eagle Owl, you can safely say that when you visit its habitat, you will be able to identify it with ease.

If you want to have the opportunity to see this bird, why not take a look at our exciting Tanzanian Birding Safaris and get in touch with us to book your spot.


Wiki Visually, Planet of Birds.

birds of tanzania endemics



Our new Tanzania Birding Express are meant to offer an un-beatable birding experience to visitors in the country with very limited time available, actually those who would wish to “bird on borrowed time” off business or conference in Dar es salaam or Arusha.

Note: Tour can be booked on last minute – subject to availability of bird guide and accommodations depending on time of year.


Specialty Birding and endemics Tour to the East Usambara Mountains and Amani Nature Reserve  North Pare Mountains, West Usambara Mountains,Mkomazi NP and Nyumba Ya Mungu water Reservoir )


Day 1: Pick from your Hotel in Arusha,drive to the Lark Plains North of Arusha,rest of the day birding. Night in Arusha booked by Tanzania Birding & Beyond Safaris.

Day 2:Drive to the North Pare Mountains, Birding for dry country specialties and on to Lushoto in the West Usambara Mountians.

Day 3: Birding West Usambara Mountains Endemics and Specialties.

Day 4:Another day in the West Usambaras, Birding.

Day 5: Drive to East Usambaras,Visiting Amani Nature Reserve

Day 6:Birding East Usambara and Amani Nature reserve Endemics.

Day 7:Another day Birding East Usambara and Amani Nature reserve Endemics.

Day 8:Drive to South Pare Mountains near Same Village,birding on the way.

Day 9:Full day Birding and Big game viewing in the Mkomazi National Park.

Day 10: Return to Arusha via Nyumba Ya Mungu Dam,birding for dry country stuff as well as water birds. Afternon on Arusha to catch various flights or your preffered Hotel in Arusha. End.


About Tanzania : Fact File and
Tanzania Travel Information

Tanzania, the largest of the Eastern African Countries (Kenya and Uganda), boasts a land area of 945,097 Square Kilometres (of which 25% is gazetted as protected areas). To draw you a picture, Tanzania is four times larger than Great Britain, seven times larger than England, or a little larger than Texas.

April & mid-May = Long rains (Green season)
June – Sept = Cool season
Nov – Dec = Short rains
October – March = Hottest season
The range of temperatures in Tanzania is fairly limited and always hot, running from 25 to 30 degrees C on the coast, while the rest of the country apart from the highlands run from 22 to 27 degrees C.
Time = GMT + 3 hrs

Tanzania Shillings; however you are advised to carry American Dollars. Money changers do accept major convertible currencies including the EURO and the Japanese Yen. Travellers Cheques may be acceptable in some places, but not in the remote countryside. Major Credit Cards may also be acceptable in some large Hotels, however it is advisable to carry cash in US Dollars, which you will change on arrival. It is prohibited to export Tanzanian local currency abroad. Your Tour leader will assist in the re-sale of local currency that you have remaining at the end of your visit.

Kiswahili & English.

Entry Visas are required for all except citizens of the Commonwealth, Scandinavian countries and the Republic of Ireland. Before departure you are advised to double check with the Tanzanian Embassy in your home country, or any Tanzanian representative nearest to you, where you may also acquire a Visa. Fees vary depending on Nationality. Alternatively Visas can be processed at any entry point into Tanzania such as at Dar es Salaam International Airport, Kilimanjaro International Airport, Zanzibar International Airport, Namanga (Tanzania – Kenya border post to the north), Tunduma (Tanzania – Malawi border post to the south), Taveta and Holili (Tanzania – Kenya border post to the north east).

To begin safaris in Northern Tanzania, most visitors are advised to book with Airlines whose Arrivals & Departures are at KILIMANJARO INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT (JRO) which is 45 minutes drive from Arusha town. See International Airlines such as AIR TANZANIA, KLM Royal Dutch, with daily flights out of Amsterdam into Kilimanjaro and Dar es Salaam, GULF AIR, KENYA AIRWAYS, ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES and EMIRATES. It is also possible to get flights arriving to Nairobi (Kenya) from where we can make arrangements to pick you up and transfer to Arusha, the starting point of your Tanzania Safari.

You are advised to take Immunisation against Hepatitis, Polio, Typhoid, Yellow fever, and precautions against Malaria are equally important. Contact your Doctor before travelling. Also personal medical insurance is advisable before departure. Carry Mosquito or Insect Repellent.

240 Volts AC, 50 – 60hz.

For safaris, especially in Northern Tanzania (Serengeti, Ngorongoro, Lake Manyara, Tarangire and Arusha) – during the day, light clothing is recommended with sturdy shoes and canvas hats. During the night in areas like Arusha and the Ngorongoro Highlands, where the altitude is between 1500 – 2500 Metres – a cardigan or pullover may be essential. In the same pack, remember your sun cream, lotions, sun glasses, a pair of binoculars, and a camera with rolls of film or spare memory cards and battery charger.

The protection of nature is everyone’s concern; therefore try to avoid the following while on safari:
Collecting or buying bones, skins, horns, teeth, feathers or shells of animals. While on the coast avoid carrying away starfish, corals and shells. These are all items that play a major role in our fragile ecosystem. Do not litter where others are expected to visit, and obey the animals’ right to live. Likewise the protection of Cultures is also everyone’s concern. Your Tour Guide will know the local habits and customs, therefore it is always advisable to ask permission before taking any pictures of tribesmen. Photography of all military installations and presidential convoys is highly prohibited. Enquire from your local Guide any other information you need to know.

Locally made products are widely sold at reasonable prices. Ask your local Guide for assistance getting the best offer to buy yourself or a friend items like Batiks and Tingatinga paintings, Ebony carvings such as cutlery, bracelets, furniture and sculptures. Others include Maasai belts, rings and necklaces made of colourful beads, Khanga for women’s wrap-arounds and Jewels which include Tanzania’s special Mineral – Tanzanite.

There are a number of different formats and presentations of bird checklists, and usually birders would arrange a checklist either alphabetically or taxonomically by order and bird family or species. Should you need a printable bird checklist, kindly let us know and we will make a copy printable for you.

There are a number of Field Guide books on the Birds of East Africa, however we highly recommend the newly published “Birds of Eastern Africa – Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi” By Terry Stevenson. And “Birds of Africa – South of the Sahara” by Ian Sinclair.
The alternative guide would be “Birds of Kenya and Northern Tanzania” by Dale Zimmerman.
For Mammals, “The Kingdom Field Guide to African Mammals” (Princeton Field Guides) would be recommended. This guidebook is simply one of the best regional mammal guidebooks in existence.

We recommend a safari duration between 5 – 7 days for short safaris and maximum 14 – 21 days for longer safaris. We do take safaris for individuals or solo travellers as well as large groups, however our vehicle maximum seating capacity is 6 windows. We do, however, encourage tailor-made itineraries for large groups and specialised programmes for Birders.
A detailed travel pack for the Country(ies) you will be visiting will be sent to you upon confirmation of your Tour, and before departure.