Brevard Zoo on lookout for Southern ground hornbill, a big bird that flew coop

1:54 PM, Feb 28, 2011   |    comments
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Suntree, Florida (Florida Today) -- A large bird at the Brevard Zoo has been spotted several times roaming the Suntree area after flying off from zoo grounds last week.

"We're encouraging people not to chase him. We have been tracking him but he is a fast runner," said Andrea Hill, spokeswoman for the Brevard Zoo.

The black-beaked Southern ground hornbill, which as a distinct red coloration around his head and has been at the zoo since 2003.

Officials at the zoo said "BB" the hornbill escaped after the feathers on his wings - which are routinely clipped to keep him grounded - regenerated faster than usual.

The bird then took flight from the Africa exhibit last week before his next clipping, officials said.

"This animal regularly has its wings clipped to keep him from flying out of his yard. But it appears his feathers grew faster than anticipated because prior to his scheduled wing maintenance, the hornbill managed to take flight out of the exhibit during the area's routine closing procedure," said Michelle Smurl, director of animal programs, in a statement released today.

The bird, whose natural habitat includes savannas or heavy woodlands, has been micro-chipped but is not tracked electronically because of the routine clipping, Hill said.

"He's been coming back to zoo grounds but he's not staying in one place. We do expect that he'll come back because he has a partner and he's used to her call," Hill said.

Officials say hornbills can be found in southern and central eastern Africa and have diets that consist of snakes, rats and frogs.

"He's never escaped before. This is the first time," Hill said.

J.D. Gallop, Florida Today

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