As their name suggests Great Hornbills are big, in fact they are the biggest of the Asian Hornbill species.
These impressive black and white birds are also incredibly long lived. Our oldest Great Hornbill is just over 20 years but could reach an age of 50! Our Great Hornbills are part of a European Endangered Species Breeding Programme. As with many hornbill species, the female Great Hornbill nests in hollows of large tree trunks. She seals herself in, leaving just a narrow slit through which the male passes her food.
She incubates her eggs here for over a month and once hatched, the chicks remain with her in the nest for a further 3 months. The chicks have no trace of the impressive yellow head casque characteristic of Great Hornbills. This starts to form in their second year and takes five years to fully develop.
In the wild, Great Hornbills need huge areas of pristine forest, which they are reliant upon for food and nesting sites. Just as the hornbills are reliant on the forests, in turn, the forests also need the hornbills. This is because Great Hornbills eat a huge variety of fruits, berries and figs and fly great distances; making them a major disperser of rainforest seeds. Without the hornbills, the forests would not be able to regenerate.
You can find our magnificent Great Hornbills in the Tropical Realm and Elephants of the Asians Plains exhibits.