Ruaha Redbilled Hornbill – A Separate Species
Caption: Ruaha Redbilled Hornbill, its head
in profile, Ruaha National Park, Tanzania.
|In the woodlands and thornveld of most African game reserves you’re likely to come across redbilled and yellowbilled hornbills..
With their large, colorful bills and facial expressions that alternate between looking quizzical or cross, they’re fun to watch as they glide from tree to tree.
Safari guides enjoy pointing them out to foreign visitors, describing them as “flying bananas” or “flying chilipeppers”, depending on the color of the bill.
But the hornbills suffer from over-exposure — they’re instantly recognisable and sufficiently common that, after a while, most people don’t pay much attention to them.
Such was the case in Tanzania’s Ruaha National Park until a researcher noticed something different about the local redbilled hornbills.
On further inspection, backed up by DNA evidence, the Ruaha (or Tanzanian) redbilled hornbill (Tockus ruahae), was found to be a separate species.
The most obvious distinguishing feature of the Ruaha hornbill is the black area around the eye, extending to the base of the bill. It also has bare patches of pink skin on either side of the throat.
Compare to picture below of normal redbilled hornbill (Tockus erythrorhynchus) taken in South Africa’s Kruger National Park.
About Ruaha National Park: Ruaha, one of the largest protected areas in Africa, is home to more than 500 bird species. The Ruaha redbilled hornbill is often seen alongside the African grey hornbill and Von der Decken’s hornbill.
Ruaha, while not nearly as popular as Serengeti and other parks in the north of Tanzania, is a spectacular wildlife sanctuary with abundant wildlife, including most of Africa’s large mammals.
The park’s undulating topography, together with the permanent waters of the Ruaha River, ensure a wide diversity of wildlife and plants, including the massive baobab trees for which Ruaha is renowned.
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