Rosamond Gifford Zoo

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Von der Decken's Hornbill

Tockus deckeni

The Von der Decken’s hornbill is an African bird distinguished by its long, horn-shaped bill. It has mostly white plumage on its body with black wings and a black tail. The male has a very distinctive red and ivory two-tone bill while the female has an entirely black bill. The long bill allows these bird to forage and collect food items from branches they could not reach otherwise.

Range & Habitat

Von der Decken’s hornbill is found across eastern Africa from central and eastern Tanzania, throughout Kenya, and into southeastern Ethiopia and Somalia.  It favors the open bush and scrubby woodlands of the dry savanna and arid steppe.

At the zoo, our Von der Decken's hornbills share a habitat with two other African species, the Cape porcupine and Superb starlings.

Conservation Status: Least Concern

This species is not currently threatened and there are no restrictions on its trade. However, it is still important to keep hornbill habitat intact and to safeguard against poaching and capture of wild birds for the illegal pet trade.


In the Wild - snails, mice, nestling birds, lizards, tree frogs, seeds, fruit, berries, insects

At the Zoo - fruits, vegetables, water-soaked pellets, mealworms, crickets

Life Span

In the Wild - about 10 years
In Human Care - up to 20 years

Fun Facts about the Von der Decken's Hornbill

    The Von der Decken’s hornbill was named after the German explorer Baron Karl von ver Decken (1833-1865).

    The Von der Decken’s hornbill and the dwarf mongoose, found in the East African savanna, have a unique relationship.  The mongooses disturb insects for the hornbills to eat, while the hornbills provide increased alertness for predators allowing those mammals time to feed.

    Hornbills are the only birds in the world in which the first two vertebrae (neck bones: axis and atlas) are fused together.



IUCN Red List Species: Von der Decken's Hornbill,

Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute: Von der Decken's Hornbill,

Maryland Zoo: Von der Decken Hornbill,

Updated February 27, 2021