A Rare Birth at the Sacramento Zoo
Abyssinian Ground Hornbill Hatched

The Sacramento Zoo is pleased to announce a rarity in the zoo world – an Abyssinian ground hornbill chick has successfully hatched. Currently, there are only four other pairs of this hornbill species successfully breeding at zoos in the United States, and no other captive hatches have been reported in the last year.

Two eggs, laid by the Zoo’s only pair of Abyssinian ground hornbills, were discovered in early May. Based on their history of not yet successfully raising any chicks, staff decided to incubate and care for the chicks using protocol developed by the San Diego Zoo. Both chicks hatched but sadly one did not survive. The chick, hatched on June 15 and weighing 72 grams, is being raised by staff off-exhibit and now weighs 3,930 grams.

“Every first at the Zoo provides a new and exciting learning experience,” said Harrison Edell, General Curator. “We do everything that we can, but it is still not an exact science. With each success we are able to share knowledge with other institutions and further our conservation efforts.”

hornbill chick day 3
Abyssinian ground hornbill chick, day 3

Hornbill chick day 47
Abyssinian ground hornbill chick, day 47

The Zoo supports the Mabula Ground Hornbill Research and Conservation Project in South Africa. In addition to conducting research on genetics and behavior of Ground hornbills, this important project has launched awareness campaigns to educate the public on the dangers to hornbills such as unintentional poisoning, secondary trapping and snaring. Part of the project also includes hand-rearing some second-hatched hornbill chicks for release back into the wild or to join the captive breeding program. This is done because ground hornbills usually only raise one chick at a time. If two chicks are hatched, one must be removed from the nest to improve its chance of survival.

Like all 54 different hornbill species, the Abyssinian ground hornbill wild population is vulnerable. Ground hornbills from Sub-Saharan Africa are the largest of the hornbills. They have a bony horn on top of their bill called a casque, which makes their calls louder and easier to hear over great distances. Abyssinian ground hornbills fly only when disturbed or when crossing areas of dense brush, preferring to walk or run from danger. The greatest threats to the hornbill are human-related and include habitat loss and illegal hunting.

To receive the most current information about the new hornbill, see pictures of it off-exhibit and learn when it will be out for the public to see, visit the Sacramento Zoo Blog.

Sacramento Zoo -- Wildly Inspiring!

Open since 1927, the Sacramento Zoo is home to more than 450 native, rare and endangered animals and is one of more than 200 accredited institutions of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Located near the corner of Land Park Drive and Sutterville Road in William Land Park, the Zoo is wholly managed by the non-profit Sacramento Zoological Society. This Sacramento treasure inspires conservation awareness through education and recreation. Open daily from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm, general admission is $10.50; children ages 2-11 are $6.50 and one and under are admitted free. Parking is free throughout the park or ride Regional Transit bus #6. For information, call 916-808-5888 or visit saczoo.org.

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