Black-and-white-casqued hornbills are found in forests and savannas throughout West and Central Africa. The subspecies Bycanistes s. subcylindricus ranges from Sierra Leone and northeast Liberia across the Ivory Coast to western Nigeria, and the subspecies, B. s. subquadratus, ranges from eastern Nigeria, Cameroon, and the Central African Republic to Sudan, Zaire, Uganda, southwest Kenya, and northwest Tanzania (del Hoyo et al., 2001). An isolated population of B. s. subquadratus also exists in Angola (Lewis and Pomeroy 1989).
Biogeographic Regions: ethiopian (Native )
Black-and-white-casqued hornbills are fairly large, mainly black hornbills with white lower backs and rumps, upper and under tail-coverts, thighs, bellies, and vents. The central pair of rectrices is all black, while the rest of the tail feathers are black-based and extensively white distally. The secondaries and inner primaries are mostly white with black bases. This species has grey-tipped facial feathering, which gave rise to another common name, gray-cheeked hornbills.
Males have red eyes, blackish facial skin and a dark brown bill with a high-ridged, laterally flattened casque which has a broad cream-colored base. Casque pattern varies individually sufficiently to aid scientists in individual recognition (Kalina 1988). Females have a much smaller all-blackish bill, and the casque is reduced to a lower, rounded ridge on the basal upper mandible. Females have pink facial skin and brown eyes. Males are larger than females, weighing between 1,078 and 1,525 g, while females weigh between 1,000 and 1,250g.
Juveniles emerging from the nest have small bills lacking casques (Kilham 1956; del Hoyo et al., 2001). Birds less than a year of age have brown feathers on the forehead and around the base of the bill (Kalina 1988; Kemp 1995). Subadults have a high degree of vascularization in the area of the future casque. The facial feathers turn from brown to grey by 10 months of age (Kemp 1995).
The subspecies B. s. subquadratus is larger than B. s. subcylindricus and has more cream coloring along the casque and more white below (del Hoyo et al., 2001).
Range mass: 1,000 to 1,525 g.
Range length: 60 to 70 cm.
Range wingspan: 284 to 378 mm.
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry
Sexual Dimorphism: male larger; sexes colored or patterned differently; male more colorful; sexes shaped differently; ornamentation
Black-and-white-casqued hornbills are most commonly found in subtropical/tropical lowland and montane forests, where they reach altitudes of 2,600 m (del Hoyo et al., 2001; BirdLife International 2008). This species is less frequently seen in artificial landscapes such as plantations or urban areas, heavily degraded forests and dry savannas (BirdLife International 2008).
Range elevation: 2,600 (high) m.
Habitat Regions: tropical ; terrestrial
Terrestrial Biomes: savanna or grassland ; forest ; rainforest ; mountains
Other Habitat Features: suburban ; agricultural
Habitat and Ecology
Black-and-white-casqued hornbills are mainly frugivorous, with fruit comprising 90% of their diet, 56% belonging to Ficus species. They forage by hopping from branch to branch in the rainforest canopy and reaching for fruit with the tip of the bill, which they then swallow whole. This species is known to consume over 41 plant genera (Kalina 1988; del Hoyo et al., 2001).
Black-and-white-casqued hornbills also consume birds, eggs, insects, bats, snails, lizards, mollusks, other small animal prey, mosses, lichens, and fungi. The carnivorous component of the diet is increased while breeding. These hornbills, alone or in flocks, occasionally raid weaver colonies (Ploceidae) or Egyptian rousette bat (Rousettus aegyptiacus) roosts and have also been reported feeding on various species of galagos (Galago). They are frequently seen foraging alongside monkeys or squirrels.
Animal Foods: birds; mammals; reptiles; eggs; insects; mollusks
Plant Foods: fruit; bryophytes; lichens
Other Foods: fungus
Primary Diet: omnivore
Black-and-white-casqued hornbills mediate seed dispersal of rainforest trees, by defecating or regurgitating seeds (Kalina 1988).
Ecosystem Impact: disperses seeds
Carnivores, apes, monkeys, snakes, raptors, and humans all prey on these hornbills. The placement of their nests high off the ground helps reduce much nest predation by carnivores, but raptors such as crowned eagles (Harpyhaliaetus coronatus) commonly prey on them (Kalina 1988).
- crowned eagles (Harpyhaliaetus coronatus)
Life History and Behavior
Black-and-white-casqued hornbills are quite vocal, with a large repertoire of calls, one of which can be heard from a distance of 2km (Kalina 1988). Calls differ between the two subspecies. Bycanistes s. subcylindricus makes mournful hooting notes, whereas B. s. subquadratus makes quacking notes uttered at a higher pitch and frequency (Kalina 1988; Kemp 1995)
Communication Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic
Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical
Black-and-white-casqued hornbills have been known to live up to 31.8 years in captivity.
Status: captivity: 31.8 (high) years.
Black-and-white-casqued hornbills are monogamous, breeding seasonally from January to May in Central Africa and August to March in eastern Africa. Their breeding season coincides with local rainy seasons, so they can take full advantage of the abundance of fruit and arthropods at this time (del Hoyo et al., 2001; Kalina 1988).
Mating System: monogamous
Bycanistes subcylindricus individuals commonly nest in naturally formed cavities 9 to 30 m high in large (>3 m circumference) rainforest trees. Due to the rarity of these nesting cavities, there is a high degree of intraspecific competition for nesting sites. In order to protect their nest, pairs seal the cavity with mud pellets collected by the male. Inside, the female lays a clutch of 2 eggs, which are typically 49.3 x 37.4 cm and white in color with pitted shells (Kemp 1995). The eggs are incubated for 42 days while the male delivers food to the female hourly through a small slit, regurgitating numerous fruits, mammals, and insects. The male can bring up to 200 fruits per visit. Usually only one offspring is reared, with the chick from the second-laid egg dying of starvation. Newly hatched chicks have pink skin and open their eyes at 20 days of age. The offspring fledge in 70 to 79 days and can feed themselves by 40 to 72 days after fledging (del Hoyo et al., 2001; Kalina 1988; Kemp 1995).
Breeding interval: Time between breeding efforts is not known.
Breeding season: Breeding occurs during wet seasons, but can occur throughout the year.
Average eggs per season: 2.
Average time to hatching: 42 days.
Range fledging age: 70 to 79 days.
Range time to independence: 101 to 139 days.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 3 years.
Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; year-round breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; fertilization ; oviparous
Both male and female black-and-white-casqued hornbills care for, protect, and provide for their offspring during the nesting and fledgling stages.
Parental Investment: altricial ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Male, Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Male, Female, Protecting: Male, Female); pre-independence (Provisioning: Male, Female, Protecting: Male, Female)
Black-and-white-casqued hornbills are not globally threatened. They are still common in central and eastern Africa, though less so in western Africa. This species is currently locally abundant because it survives in degraded forest and open areas; however, forest degradation in Africa means that hornbills now occur in more open areas with few large trees, which makes them more prone to hunting..
US Migratory Bird Act: no special status
US Federal List: no special status
CITES: no special status
State of Michigan List: no special status
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
There are no adverse effects of black-and-white-casqued hornbills on humans.
Like all hornbills, black-and-white-casqued hornbills. with their unusual behaviors and impressive casques are interesting to many different groups of people, and therefore contribute to the success of ecotourism in Africa. They help to regenerate native forest through seed dispersal.
Positive Impacts: ecotourism ; research and education
The Black-and-white-casqued hornbill (Bycanistes subcylindricus) also known as the grey-cheeked hornbill, is a large—approximately 70 cm (28 in) long—black and white hornbill. It has an oversized blackish bill with a large casque on top. The female is slightly smaller than the male and has a significantly smaller casque.
The black-and-white-casqued hornbill is found in wooded habitats in central and western Africa, ranging from western Kenya to Côte d'Ivoire with an isolated population in north Angola. It is a monogamous species, and pairs nest in suitable tree cavities. The female usually lays up to two eggs. The diet consists mainly of figs, fruits, insects and small animals found in the trees.