Family Hornbills (Bucerotidae)

Least Concern

Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill (Tockus leucomelas)


French: Calao leucomèle German: Südlicher Gelbschnabeltoko Spanish: Toco piquigualdo sureño

Buceros leucomelas

M. H. C. Lichtenstein

, 1842,

Vaal River, South Africa


Close to T. flavirostris (which see), and in the past usually treated as conspecific. Smaller and paler W race elegans sometimes considered not worthy of recognition, but differs from other populations in bare-part colours. Birds from far E of range proposed as race parvior on basis of smaller size, but degree of variation in all populations uncertain; further study needed. Two subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • T. l. elegans Hartlaub, 1865 – SW Angola and NW Namibia.
  • T. l. leucomelas (M. H. C. Lichtenstein, 1842) – N & C Namibia E to S Malawi, W Mozambique and N & E South Africa.
  • Descriptive notes

    40 cm; male 153–242 g, female 138–211 g. Small, black and white hornbill with spotted wing-coverts, white in outer tail, and long yellow bill with only slight... read more


    A long, fast series of mellow clucking notes, often increasing in speed and amplitude (especially... read more


    Scattered trees along watercourses in semi-desert in W, throughout open savanna and woodland in E. read more

    Food and feeding

    Diet mainly arthropods, especially termites, ants, beetles, caterpillars and grasshoppers, but also centipedes, scorpions, solifugids; some... read more


    Lays after first summer rains, in Sept–Mar; rarely, second brood. Territorial in pairs. Nest in natural cavity 0·8–12... read more


    Local seasonal movements reported from lowveld to escarpment of South Africa, and in more arid... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Widespread and common in most parts of range, at densities of c. 1 pair/20 ha. Remains in areas with various forms of farming, and eliminated only... read more

    Recommended citation

    Kemp, A.C. & Boesman, P. (2019). Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill (Tockus leucomelas). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 21 July 2019).