Nancy is Back in the Nest

New Camera Allows You to See Inside our Trumpeter Hornbill’s Nest!

Followers of the Zoo might remember the story from last year about our pair of trumpeter hornbills and their nesting and chick-rearing journey. In 2019 we welcomed Henry, a male

Father Henry and last year’s chick Ronnie perched in the aviary.

hornbill, to live with our female, Nancy, in our Flight Connection Aviary. The pair quickly hit it off and worked to create a perfect nest to hatch an egg and raise a chick, who is now a juvenile named Ronnie. However the structure of the nest made it impossible to see or photograph the action that was happening inside — which is why for this year’s nesting season, we got more creative!

Hornbills have a peculiar nesting strategy that involves hollowing out a tree trunk or log and sealing the female bird inside using mud so that the only opening to the outside world is through a small slit. The female bird does not leave the log for months during this time, and is completely reliant on the male to bring her food. While sealed in the log, the female will lay her eggs, hatch them, rear the chicks, and undergo a full feather molt. After all of this hard work she will eventually break the mud seal and leave the nest with a fully-flighted adolescent chick or several chicks.

The outside of the hornbill nest showing the slit through which Nancy is fed by Henry.

Because the log is sealed closed save for one small slit, it can be challenging for animal care staff to check on Nancy. So this year, we’re trying out a new tool! We installed a camera in the ceiling of a pre-hollowed-out log before Nancy entered the cavity and the pair began the process of sealing her inside. This camera now allows us to monitor Nancy and give you a special look at what life is like inside of a hornbill nest! In the following video you can see Nancy preening her feathers, redecorating her nest, being fed from the outside by Henry, and caring for her newly laid egg(s)!