Hope for a Hornbill: Late Hatcher has a Bright Future

Meet Horton, an ambassador trumpeter hornbill

You may remember the story of three trumpeter hornbill chicks hatching at our Zoo in June, 2020. According to our video camera hidden inside the hornbills’ nest cavity, the third chick hatched later than his siblings. This time difference put the last chick at a disadvantage since he was much smaller and younger than his siblings. When his siblings were old enough to fledge the nest and fly with their parents, the last little chick was still missing all of the feathers he needed to keep up, and could not leave the nest.

Occurrences like this are common in nature, and in most cases the parents will focus on caring only for their healthiest offspring to conserve resources. To give this young hornbill the best chance at survival his care team made the decision to hand raise him separately from his family. 

The chick quickly became a staff favorite, and was given the name Horton. Horton was so young that he needed constant care and feeding from his new human family.

“When Horton was very little he needed to be fed when the zoo was closed, so he was taken home by myself or our veterinarian,” shares Animal Care Supervisor Alex Zelazo-Kessler. “From almost day one Horton was a very adventurous and social bird. At my home I would let him explore on the floor. If I went into the other room, Horton followed.”

Horton’s care team was unsure of his future at first, but he quickly gained in strength, weight, and confidence. His need for constant care meant that he was bonding strongly with people and becoming comfortable with the human world. As his confidence grew his care team realized he had the potential to become an excellent educational ambassador.

“He got to travel to and from the zoo, so he is really well positioned to be a great ambassador for his species, nothing really phases him,” says Zelazo-Kessler.

Despite his comfort with humans, Horton is still a wild animal and lives in a behind-the-scenes aviary where he has space to participate in natural hornbill behaviors. He currently enjoys learning with our ambassador keepers and educators, and will one day be excellent for educational encounters with guests in the Zoo.

We are so proud of everyone on Horton’s team who helped give him this chance to be an ambassador! We are confident that Horton will thrive in his new role and will help guests connect with nature and appreciate hornbills and other wild birds.