African Tales – the African Hornbill

Hornbill with his breakfast

Hornbill with his breakfast

March 20 – By day the mission campus was frequented a lot by hornbills, fairly large birds with huge beaks. Hornbills make their nests in holes in trees, and the male walls the female in with the eggs and baby birds with mud, leaving just a small cavity through which he passes food to the occupants.

One day Ron and I were roaming around on the mission and I climbed up into a wild nut tree just to see what might be interesting up there, and I was startled to hear a loud hissing coming from a hole in the branch. Closer examination disclosed something waving and hissing around in the hole and I was about ready to leave for safety when I happen to see the head of a bird in there. Ah, it was a hornbill’s nest with two babies in it. The mother must have already been freed from her prison so she could help feed the brood. I managed to open the exit enough to get my hand in and capture one of the babies. The smaller one climbed up into a hollow above the nest cavity, where I could not reach it, much to Ron’s sorrow, for he too wanted a pet hornbill.

This hornbill became an interesting pet and eventually was allowed to fly freely around the mission station. One day I fed him a snake and he swallowed as much as he had room for, which left a lot of snake hanging out. So all day long he perched in a tree, slowly digesting the snake and swallowing it until finally it was all gone. The hornbill used to follow us from tree to tree when we went for a walk, which made for an interesting convoy, with kids, dogs, monkey, and hornbill traveling along together. – DALE

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