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Abyssinian Ground Hornbill In Uganda

Scientifically known as the “Bucorvus abyssinicus”, The Abyssinian ground hornbill or northern ground hornbill is an African bird, found north of the equator, and is one of two species of ground hornbill. The other is the slightly larger southern ground hornbill; the two are the largest species of hornbills found in Africa. It is normally seen in Murchison falls national park in Uganda.

Abyssinian ground hornbill is a large, terrestrial hornbill with black body feathers and white primary feathers which are visible in flight. The adult male has a patch of bare blue skin around the eye and an inflatable patch of bare skin on the neck and throat which is red, apart from the upper throat which is blue. The bill is long and black except for a reddish patch at the base of the mandible. On top of the bill there is a short open-ended black casque. The female is similar but smaller with any bare skin being wholly dark blue. Juvenile birds are dark sooty-brown with a smaller bill, with an incipient casque. As the juvenile matures, which usually takes 3 years, it gradually develops the plumage, bare skin color and casque of the adults. The total length is 90 to 110 cm.

It reportedly averages around 90 to 100 cm (35 to 39 in) tall, around 110 cm and weighs approximately 4 kg. Per Stevenson and Fanshawe, the Abyssinian is a larger species on average than the southern ground hornbill, at 102 cm.

Abyssinian ground hornbills are opportunist feeders, following ungulate herds and forest fires so that they can prey on small animals disturbed by the larger animals or flames. An individual hornbill can walk up to 11 km in a day, pouncing on and eating animals they come across. They have also been recorded digging for arthropods in the soil and attacking bee hives for honeycomb; they very rarely consume any plant matter. The strong bill is used to capture and overcome the prey before it is eaten.

A deep booming uh-uh, uh-uh-uh which is far carrying and is normally made at dawn from either a perch or from the ground. The male and female sing in duets.

They prefer to nest in large trees, with baobabs and palm stumps being preferred; the nest is constructed in a cavity. They have also been recorded nesting in other types of cavities including holes in rocks and man-made cavities such as bee-hive logs or baskets. In the ground hornbills the females are partially sealed in using a mixture of mud and vegetation. In other hornbills the nesting female moult their all flight feathers at once but this is not the case in the ground hornbills. The male prepares the nest by lining the cavity with dry leaves before the female enters and lays a clutch of one or two eggs.

The female enters and lays a clutch of one or two eggs over around five days. She starts to incubate as soon as the first egg is laid so that the chick which hatches first has a head start in development over its sibling. Incubation of each egg takes between 37 and 41 days, during which time there is no effort to keep the cavity clean and the male is responsible for providing food to the incubating female. The weight of the newly hatched chick is around 70 g and the first-hatched grows rapidly at the expense of the second, which will normally die of starvation before it is four days old by which time its sibling can weigh as much as 350 g. When the surviving chick is 21 to 33 days old the mother leaves the nest, and starts to help in food provision, then after 80 to 90 days the chick leaves the nest.

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