Sunday, September 1, 2013

Homes of the Hornbills

The Zoo is home to three species of awesome Hornbills, the Great Hornbill, the Ground Hornbill and the Wrinkled Hornbill.  

With the Komodo Dragon exhibit being adjacent to the Ground Hornbills, now seems like an appropriate time to finally get to this post.  I started this post about a year ago it seems.   At first it was about the size of the Great Hornbill's enclosure, then earlier this year the Zoo acquired a pair of Wrinkles and I wanted to do an introduction post in combination with that.

One of my Zoo favorites is Hercules the Great Hornbill. Stop by and watch him, especially interact with Keepers.  He has quite a personality!   

The issue with his enclosure is that for this size Bird,  its too small.  I heard (what seems like the year ago, that prompted this post topic) that there was talk of expanding his living space, but that has yet to happen.  Why?  I have no idea.  BUT it is necessary!  

This is the front view of Hercules enclosure.  Where I have the blue arrows, shows three panels of fencing across, each measuring what looks to be about 6 ft and on the side there are two panels.  So, his living space seems to be approximately 18 ft x 12 ft.

This is the side view.  you can see the two panels to the photo left and the blue box on photo right is overlayed to an area that is the same size of the current area, but sits vacant with nothing on it.  This space should be used to extend Hercules living area and more important, FLIGHT area!  He is a bird with a wingspan of 5 ft, he needs space to free fly, not just flap a few feet to get around, which in addition to hopping is all he's able to do in here.

I have read that the European guideline for captive Hornbills is enclosures that are at least four times the wingspan.  I couldn't find anything for North America, but it would seem something similar should be in line. From my calculations that would mean Hercules should have an area of at least 20 x 20.

Below is the living space of the Ground Hornbills, who are in the old Lorikeet free fly enclosure.  This is a huge area.  This is what a space for Birds this size should be like.  

When the Zoo acquired the Wrinkled Hornbills earlier this year, they knocked down a wall between two of the enclosures on Bird Row (across from the Chimps), to create a long flight space for them.    They are a good size smaller than the Great and Ground Hornbills.

You can view them in their space in my Meet the Wrinkles video:

SFZoo, Why is Hercules still living in basically a big cage?

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for additional insight and information.
Check back as I reply to all comments.
Contact the San Francisco Zoo Director Tanya Peterson
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  1. Lee (a tiger's best friend)September 1, 2013 at 9:39 PM

    Hercules is quite a character. He is a gorgeous bird that loves interacting with keepers and visitors. I think for a bird his size it's pitiful that he only has room to hop around and the only flight he has is to fly up to a perch to hop around again. It doesnt even give him enough flight to fully spread his wings. He is adorable and I just love visiting him..... ZOO, get some FLIGHT room for Hercules!!!

    1. @Lee- Thank you for your comment. ... He is very personable and appears to be imprinted on Humans as he is the only Hornbill I see interact with the Keepers. I watched him again for extended time on Monday while a Keeper was in with him and he is just a lovey guy :)

  2. Author Add: This comment posted by user ellicruu would not publish for some reason, so I'm adding it in myself.

    ellicruu - What a pitiful enclosure for such a majestic bird, Hercules doesn't deserve this...I used my area calculator again as well as utilized your photos and I was horrified with the results. By the looks of it, the Great Hornbill enclosure is 22(length:some-what longer than your estimation)x16(depth)x12(height) feet. This ends with a volume of 4224 square feet. While the Southern Ground Hornbill enclosure is 50(length)x38(depth)x15(height) feet. Which is 28500 square feet. In comparison, the Ground Hornbills have an enclosure almost 7 times larger in volume than Hercules! As birds, both hornbills are approximately the same size so there is no reason why Hercules has to live in such conditions.

    1. @ellicruu - Thank you for your comment. I hope you still got notification of some sort and have returned to see this reply. Not sure what happened, but I always appreciate your comments. ... Thank you for your calculations. I can only estimate from Visitor perspective, but like you said, even at your calculations this is awful. He is 11 and has lived in this space for at least five years, so may very well have been living there most of his life. Sad. AND I don't buy that there is no money. They sure as hell found money to build that damn tiki hut above the Mandrils! ... I keep forgetting for posts like this to add in the Director contact info, so will do and please send an email and be Hercules voice :)


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