Most hornbills are omnivorous and eat a combination of fruit, insects, and other small animals. The birds can use the tip of their bill as a finger to pluck fruit from trees or animals off the ground. The edges of the bill are notched like a saw for grasping and tearing. The larger hornbill species tend to eat mostly fruit and travel from tree to tree in pairs or large flocks.
There are two hornbill species that are unique because they are carnivorous and spend most of their time on the ground: Africa’s Abyssinian or northern hornbills and southern ground hornbills. These species patrol their savanna territory on foot in groups of up to a dozen individuals. They eat mice and other rodents, frogs, and even venomous snakes, which they catch by using their long bill as tongs to keep out of harm’s way.
Hornbill courtship behaviors include a prospective pair vocalizing to one another, chasing each other, and slapping their bills together. The male must build trust with the female, so he demonstrates his devotion by bringing her food all year long. His loyalty is important, as she will be sealed up in a tree cavity with the eggs and the chicks for a few months.