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Breeding and nest site characteristics of the Black-casqued Hornbill Ceratogymna atrata and White-thighed Hornbill Ceratogymna cylindricus in south-central Cameroon

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The reproductive biology of two species of African hornbill, the Black-casqued Hornbill, Ceratogymna atrata, and the Whitethighed Hornbill, Ceratogymna cylindricus, was investigated over a four-year period (1994–1997) on a 25km 2 site in lowland rainforest in south-central Cameroon. Nesting attempts varied considerably among years, with the percentage of successful nests highest in 1995, with 64% and 54% of Black-casqued and White-thighed Hornbill fledging offspring, respectively. There were no nesting attempts in 1994, despite the fact that hornbills were present in the study area. Large differences in fruit availability were also noted across years, suggesting that reproductive activity and success are related to fruit availability. Data collected from 38 nests, over four breeding seasons (1994–1997), showed a preference for nest cavities in larger trees within areas of the forest containing larger trees. Hornbills did not show preferences for particular tree species, with the possible exception of Petersianthus macrocarpus, in which nine of the active nest cavities were found. Comparisons showed few significant differences in cavity characteristics between the two species . While cavities may have been a limiting factor in nesting in 1995, the year with the highest fruit availability, cavities were not limiting during other years when fruit availability was lower. Hornbill diets, as determined from seed traps at cavities, showed significant year-to-year variation. Although courtship and exploratory behaviour of cavities by pairs took place in most years, females did not wall themselves into cavities unless fruit was plentiful. Hornbills appear to time reproduction to coincide with peak food supply and successfully reproduce only when food is plentiful, and may curtail or forego nesting in years when fruit availability is low.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2004

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