Saturday 15 June
White-thighed hornbill (Bycanistes albotibialis)
White-thighed hornbill fact file
- Find out more
- Print factsheet
White-thighed hornbill description
The white-thighed hornbill is a large and highly vocal bird, with a long, slightly decurved beak, topped with a large and distinctive growth known as a casque. The function of this strange structure is debated, though it may provide support for the long beak, help in attracting a mate, or serve to amplify the bird’s raucous call (4).
The white-thighed hornbill is considered by some to be a subspecies of the brown-cheeked hornbill, Bycanistes cylindricus (2) (3) (5), although it occupies a distinct range (2) and differs in its colouration. Like B. cylindricus, the body is glossy black, and the rump, belly, tail coverts and tips of the wings are white, with a broad black band across the centre of an otherwise white tail. However, the white-thighed hornbill lacks the brown cheek and throat feathers of B. cylindricus, and has white on its thighs, giving the species its common name. Males have a brown beak, slightly grooved at the base of the lower mandible, with a cream-coloured tip, and a cream-coloured casque that also has slight grooving. The beak is darker and the casque more elongated than in B. cylindricus. The bare skin around the eye is pale yellow, the eye itself is brownish, and the legs and feet are black. Females are smaller, with much smaller beaks and casques, while juveniles lack the casque altogether (2) (3).
- Bycanistes cylindricus albotibialis, Ceratogymna albotibialis.
- Head-body length: 60 - 70 cm (2) (3)
- Male weight: 1.2 - 1.4 kg (2) (3)
- Female weight: 0.9 - 1.1 kg (2) (3)
Coraciiformes Taxon Advisory Group:
The Hornbill Research Foundation:
- BirdLife International:
- Small feathers concealing the bases of larger flight feathers, usually on the wings or tail.
- Having only one mate during a breeding season, or throughout the breeding life of a pair.
- Primary forest
- Forest that has remained undisturbed for a long time and has reached a mature condition.
- Secondary forest
- Forest that has re-grown after a major disturbance, such as fire or timber harvest, but has not yet reached the mature state of primary forest.
- A population usually restricted to a geographical area that differs from other populations of the same species, but not to the extent of being classified as a separate species.
IUCN Red List (November, 2008)
- del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Sargatal, J. (2001) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 6: Mousebirds to Hornbills. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
- Kemp, A.C. (1995) The Hornbills: Bucerotiformes. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
- Grzimek, B. (2003) Grzimek’s Animal Life Encyclopedia. Second Edition. Volume 10: Birds III. Gale Group, Farmington Hills, Michigan.
BirdLife International (November, 2008)
- Holbrook, K.M., Smith, T.B. and Hardesty, B.D. (2002) Implications of long-distance movements of frugivorous rain forest hornbills. Ecography, 25(6): 745 - 749.
- Kemp, A. (2009) Pers. comm.
- Stauffer, D.J. and Smith, T.B. (2004) Breeding and nest site characteristics of the Black-casqued Hornbill Ceratogymna atrata and White-thighed Hornbill Ceratogymna cylindricus in south-central Cameroon. Ostrich, 75(3): 79 - 88.
- view the contents of, and Material on, the website;
- download and retain copies of the Material on their personal systems in digital form in low resolution for their own personal use;
- teachers, lecturers and students may incorporate the Material in their educational material (including, but not limited to, their lesson plans, presentations, worksheets and projects) in hard copy and digital format for use within a registered educational establishment, provided that the integrity of the Material is maintained and that copyright ownership and authorship is appropriately acknowledged by the End User.
White-thighed hornbill biology
Fruit makes up about 90 percent of the diet of the white-thighed hornbill, though it also takes insects and the eggs and nestlings of other birds (2) (3). Most feeding takes place high in the canopy, where large groups may gather at fruiting trees. The long distances travelled in search of fruit mean this hornbill is likely to be an important seed disperser, playing a key role in forest regeneration (2) (4) (6).
Hornbills have a unique form of nesting behaviour. The female uses mud or her own droppings to seal herself inside a tree cavity, leaving only a narrow slit through which the male feeds both her and the chicks until the time comes for the chicks to leave the nest (4). In Bycanistes hornbills, the male swallows mud, forming it into pellets which are regurgitated to the female while she is inside preparing the nest. For this reason, the males are often encountered beside pools or termite mounds prior to nesting (7). However, little else is known about the breeding behaviour of the white-thighed hornbill (2). Up to two nestlings have been recorded, but usually only a single offspring is seen flying with the parent birds after fledging (2) (3). Like other hornbills, the white-thighed hornbill is likely to be monogamous (4), and usually moves around in pairs or small family groups (2). There is no obvious breeding season (2), but reproduction may be timed to coincide with peak fruit availability and may even be abandoned in years when this is low (8).Top
White-thighed hornbill rangeTop
White-thighed hornbill habitat
The white-thighed hornbill is found in extensive areas of primary forest, mainly in lowlands, but also recorded up to elevations of 4,054 metres. It is also occasionally found in adjacent areas of secondary forest and in plantations (2) (3).Top
White-thighed hornbill status
Classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).Top
White-thighed hornbill threats
The white-thighed hornbill is threatened by habitat loss and fragmentation, and is among the first of the large hornbill species to be affected by forest disturbance, although it does sometimes occur in disturbed areas (2). Little information is available on whether, like other hornbill species (4), the white-thighed hornbill is hunted, for example for food or as a pet. However, it has been reported that some areas have local taboos against eating white-thighed hornbills (3).Top
White-thighed hornbill conservation
The white-thighed hornbill is not currently considered globally threatened, though population trends have yet to be quantified and there is some evidence that they are in decline (5). There are no known specific conservation measures in place for the species, but, as it is often treated together with B. cylindricus, further research may be needed to better understand the conservation needs of each as separate species.Top
Find out more
For more information on hornbill research and conservation see:
For more information on this and other bird species please see:
Authenticated (20/07/09) by Dr Alan Kemp, retired Curator, Transvaal Museum (now Ditsong National Museum of Natural History), and Research Associate, Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology, University of Cape Town.
MyARKive offers the scrapbook feature to signed-up members, allowing you to organize your favourite ARKive images and videos and share them with friends.
Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials
Copyright in this website and materials contained on this website (Material) belongs to Wildscreen or its licensors.
Visitors to this website (End Users) are entitled to:
End Users shall not copy or otherwise extract, alter or manipulate Material other than as permitted in these Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials.
Additional use of flagged material
Green flagged material
Certain Material on this website (Licence 4 Material) displays a green flag next to the Material and is available for not-for-profit conservation or educational use. This material may be used by End Users, who are individuals or organisations that are in our opinion not-for-profit, for their not-for-profit conservation or not-for-profit educational purposes. Low resolution, watermarked images may be copied from this website by such End Users for such purposes. If you require high resolution or non-watermarked versions of the Material, please contact Wildscreen with details of your proposed use.
Creative commons material
Certain Material on this website has been licensed to Wildscreen under a Creative Commons Licence. These images are clearly marked with the Creative Commons buttons and may be used by End Users only in the way allowed by the specific Creative Commons Licence under which they have been submitted. Please see http://creativecommons.org for details.
Any other use
Please contact the copyright owners directly (copyright and contact details are shown for each media item) to negotiate terms and conditions for any use of Material other than those expressly permitted above. Please note that many of the contributors to ARKive are commercial operators and may request a fee for such use.
Save as permitted above, no person or organisation is permitted to incorporate any copyright material from this website into any other work or publication in any format (this includes but is not limited to: websites, Apps, CDs, DVDs, intranets, extranets, signage, digital communications or on printed materials for external or other distribution). Use of the Material for promotional, administrative or for-profit purposes is not permitted.