Bat­tle of the horn­bills

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QANCIA DU PLESSIS from Modi­molle writes: We saw two south­ern yel­low-billed horn­bills fight­ing in the Kruger Park. It was al­most a fa­tal bat­tle – the big­ger bird grabbed the smaller one by the throat, but the smaller bird got away by bit­ing the at­tacker’s wing. The scuf­fle lasted a few min­utes. Why would they fight like this?

ABird ex­pert LUKAS NIEMAND says: I con­sulted horn­bill ex­pert Alan Kemp. The pic­nic sites and rest camps in the Kruger are im­por­tant feed­ing grounds for yel­low-billed horn­bills, es­pe­cially dur­ing the dry sea­son. If pic­nic sites and rest camps fall within the ter­ri­tory of these birds, they will an­nounce their pres­ence early in the morn­ing with their kok-kok-kok call. They will also roost nearby and tend to dom­i­nate the pic­nic sites. Vis­it­ing in­di­vid­u­als are some­times at­tracted to the pic­nic sites from out­side (some fly up to 15 km). In this case, a vis­it­ing bird must have en­tered the res­i­dent horn­bill’s ter­ri­tory. Oc­ca­sion­ally, these bat­tles lead to se­ri­ous in­juries and even death.

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