13/07/2021

Endangered hornbill chick hatches

This amazing footage shows life inside a nest box where an Endangered male Visayan hornbill chick has hatched here at Bristol Zoo Gardens.

The chick is the tenth to have hatched at the Zoo in the past five years -- a huge feat for the species whose numbers in the wild are thought to be fewer than 2000. 


Hornbills follow a unique breeding process which involves the mother sealing herself inside the cavity of a tree, prepared by our bird experts.

She seals it with mud and other natural materials leaving only a very small hole - a process called ‘mudding up’ -- before laying her eggs and incubating them.

The mother depends solely on the male bird for her food and, once hatched, he then has to bring enough food to feed both mother and chicks, often making up to 70 trips every day.

The father brings fruit and insects for the chicks to feed on. Here at Bristol Zoo Gardens their favourites are giant mealworms and papaya.

The mother remains in the nest with the chicks until they are ready to leave and will depart the nest before the chicks to encourage them to leave.

At this point they all break out of the solid mud entrance until it crumbles away leaving them enough space to get out.

Our bird experts have been keeping a 24-hour watch on the hornbill mother and her chick through CCTV cameras installed in the nest.

Trevor Franks, Curator of Birds, said: “The successful hatching of such an Endangered species of bird is always a fantastic achievement and something we are very proud of. 

“We’ve been breeding these birds at Bristol Zoo Gardens for around six years now, and have seen 11 successful hatches in this time. This chick adds to the total European zoo population of only 54 birds.” 

Visayan hornbills are found in the Philippines and are threatened in the wild because of the destruction of forest and the fragmentation of their populations.

For more than 20 years, we have been working on a conservation project to help a number of rare species and their habitats in the Western Visayan Islands of Negros and Panay in the Philippines.

Most recently, our team have been collecting data on the island of Panay to estimate the population of Visayan hornbills and plan to work with local communities to stop illegal hunting and forest clearing to protect one of the last remaining forests of Panay, which is home to numerous rare species such as tarictic hornbills, Negros bleeding-heart doves and Visayan warty pigs.

Our flock of Visayan hornbills are located in our Forest of Birds exhibit. It is planned the exhibit, alongside other indoor exhibits at the Zoo, will be able to reopen when Covid restrictions are lifted later this month. 

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