This bird is never going to win an ornithological beauty contest. It has a red, warty face and a large serrated black bill. It is the size of a large turkey. Its feathers are black, but in flight, the wingtips are white. The female has a pale blue patch at the throat, but is otherwise indistinguishable from the male.
They can be quite shy and will skitter away into the bush if they feel threatened. They pick up insects with the point of their beak, toss them in the air and catch them. It reminds me of my misspent youth in pubs, playing with beer mats balanced flat on the edge of a table, flicking them up in the air with the back of your fingernails and then catching them between fingers and thumb.
Ground hornbills are usually seen in pairs or family group. In the mornings, they speak to each other with a loud, booming bass “ooomph, ooomph”, eliciting an answering call from the other hornbill. This duet goes on even though the birds are within a few metres of each other. I recorded their conversation using my camcorder, which has a stereo microphone, so I might be able to reproduce it accurately. Unfortunately, my internet connection won’t allow me to upload the footage to YouTube.
I like these birds because nothing looks quite like them. Their red face and wattles make them stand out from the crowd/flock. Today was the first time I have heard them calling to each other. The noise was so loud that at first I didn’t believe it was coming from the hornbills.