The Remarkable Rhino Hornbills

Some time back you may remember that I was doing graphite drawings of the rhino hornbills at the Virginia Zoo. Ryobi and Oona have become two of my favorites. In fact, today I was lucky enough to see Oona fly across their aviary while Ryobi used his strong beak to tear twigs from a large branch.

Ryobi plays with an enrichment toy.

I have finished a portrait of Oona, posed with her nesting box behind her. That box holds all the promise of future chicks…but today it was boarded up.

Mischievous Ryobi!

Several times, I’m told, since Ryobi bashed the plywood out of the hole repeatedly.

Nest box for rhinoceros hornbills.

 It’s just too cold for the rhino hornbills to nest outside! (There’s another nest box indoors for the pair to use if they wish.) Because once these birds decide it’s time to hatch some chicks, Oona and Ryobi seal her in with mud and fruit for about ten weeks. Only a tiny hole will allow Ryobi or the keepers to push food to her.  She’ll incubate her eggs until they hatch in about six weeks. Then another four weeks will be spent caring for the chicks.

Oona gazes out with her blue-white eyes.

But when she busts out of the box, the female hornbill has a glorious new set of glossy feathers! While safe in her box she will have undergone a complete molt and regrown all her feathers.

So I included Oona’s nest box in her portrait as a tribute to the amazing reproductive cycle of her species. It would be wonderful if Ryobi and Oona became first-time parents this year!

**Side note: the sun is climbing higher into the sky, so soon there will be a sunny, windless day. That will give me a chance to take quality photos of a few new paintings, including this one, to add to the shop. I’ll be sure to let you know when that happens.

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