Birdy Spotlight – Hornbills

Written by Josh Caraballo, Animal Care Professional

Hornbills come in all shapes and sizes here at ZooTampa! Several species of hornbills are in our care from the smallest Red-billed hornbills like Zazu from the Lion King to larger ones like Great Indian hornbills. These birds are a unique group for a couple of different reasons. For example, their first two neck vertebrae have been fused to support their large bills – whoa! They are also known for their nesting habits. The female will “mud” or seal themselves into a tree cavity with help from their mates, leaving only a small slit through which the male provides food. She will remain sealed inside the nest for 3-5 months depending on the species.  During this time, she will completely molt and re-grow her feathers. When the chicks become large and the nest becomes crowded, the female will break out of the nest, reseal it and assist the male with feedings. The chicks will break out of the nest when they are ready to fly.  At this point, the parents will teach them how to eat and hunt on their own to become completely independent.

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Great Indian hornbills are found scattered throughout their range on the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia. The abundance of this species tends to be correlated with the density of large trees, required for nesting, and are most common in unlogged forests. These birds are 37-50 inches long with a large, lightweight casque –a helmetlike structure on top of the bill. Their plumage is boldly patterned in black, white and yellow. The yellow comes from a preen gland that is located at the base of their tails. They rub their bills on this gland and spread the yellow oil on their feathers. The male typically has a larger casque, red iris and black around the eyes and frontal area of the casque. The female’s irises are white-light blue, with red skin around their eyes and no black on the frontal portion of the casque. Great Indian hornbills face many threats in the wild including deforestation, poaching, and the illegal wildlife trade.

ZooTampa is a member of The Association of Zoos and Aquariums or (AZA) and we participate in Species Survival Plans (SSP) for four hornbill species. Programs like the SSP are a way for zoos and aquariums to help protect and preserve this, and others, species for future generations.

While we have SSP programs in place for some hornbill species, their wild cousins like the Helmeted Hornbill are in need of our help as they have become Critically Endangered in a matter of a few years. They have a solid casque, unlike most hornbills that have hollow casques and are hunted for their casques to be carved into trinkets which are sold on the black market.  ZooTampa is committed to wildlife conservation efforts locally and globally. Through grants from our conservation fund, we work with our partners to help protect and preserve various hornbill species in Africa and Asia. You can help your feathered friends by visiting the Zoo and our Great Indian hornbill in the Main Aviary.


Please review our booking tips before continuing

Outside Food & Drinks Policy

ZooTampa at Lowry Park offers a variety of delicious food for guests at several restaurants and concession stands throughout, but we understand that guests may need to bring outside food for special dietary needs. Acceptable and prohibited food items are listed below. For the convenience of our guests, there is a picnic area located outside the park near the main parking lot.

 Acceptable Items
  • Bottled water (max 20oz bottle, sealed) one per guest
  • Small snacks for young children
  • Baby food/baby formula
  • Soft-sided insulated bags no larger than 8.5” wide x 6” high x 6” deep (limit one per child)
  • Pre-purchased empty ZooTampa souvenir cups
  • Any food required for medical purposes and medically-indicated nutritional supplements
 Prohibited Items
  • Prepared or packaged food or meals
  • Alcohol
  • Glass or any open containers or water bottles filled with beverages
  • Hard-sided coolers of any size
  • Soft-sided coolers larger than 8.5” wide x 6” high x 6” deep
  • Suitcases and soft-sided bags with wheels larger than 24” long x 15” wide x 18” high

Prohibited Items

For the safety of our animals, guests and employees, the following items are not permitted to be brought into ZooTampa:

  • Any type of explosive or weapon
  • Knives or other sharp objects
  • Pepper spray
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Marijuana
  • Illegal drugs
  • Straws
  • Clothing likely to create a danger or disturbance
  • Any hazardous items or materials

The following items are also prohibited to avoid blocking of walkways and/or trip hazards:

  • Segways
  • Hover boards
  • Two-wheeled scooters
  • Self-balancing electric vehicles
  • Shoes with wheels
  • Drones
  • Hard-sided coolers of any size
  • Soft-sided coolers larger than 8.5” wide x 6” high x 6” deep
  • Suitcases and soft-sided bags with wheels larger than 24” long x 15” wide x 18” high

Please leave any unnecessary articles secured within your vehicle to expedite your entry into the park.

We reserve the right to deny entry to anyone not observing Zoo Rules.

Pay For A Day Tickets

With a new Pay For A Day, Rest of Year Free ticket – for a limited time – you get unlimited admission through December 31, 2023 including access to our seasonal event series. Some blockout dates apply — see below for details. Not valid with any other discounts.

When does my Pay For A Day ticket expire?

For a limited time, new Pay for a Day, Rest of Year Free tickets are valid from the day of purchase until 12/31/2023 Pay for a Day, Rest of Year Free tickets which were purchased prior to October 1st, 2022 are valid until 12/31/2022.

What are the blockout dates?

3/11/23 – 3/19/23
11/24/23 – 11/26/23
12/26/23 – 12/31/23

Can I purchase a Pay For A Day ticket on a blockout date?

Yes! You can purchase a Pay for a Day, Rest of Year Free ticket for first-time use on a listed blockout date and have full access to the park on that day. Blockout dates apply to repeat visitation.

Can I use my Pay For A Day ticket on blockout dates?

If you already have your Pay for a Day, Rest of Year Free ticket and wish to visit during a listed blockout date, please stop by the Zoo’s ticketing windows for alternate options:

  1. During blockout periods, Pay For A Day ticket holders have access to significantly discounted single-day tickets.
  2. For a limited time from the date of purchase, Pay For A Day tickets can be upgraded to a Zoo Membership (with no blockout dates).
I purchased a Pay For A Day ticket online. How do I get my actual ticket?

Bring a copy of your confirmation (or show the confirmation email on your mobile device) to expedite entry into the Zoo. At your convenience during your visit you can stop by the Tours & Guest Services kiosk located just inside the Zoo to print your physical pass. No need to stand in line at the ticket windows. Walk right in!
Still have questions? Email us or call (813) 935-8552 ext. 0.