Watch a Snake Fight Back From the Grave and Choke a Bird

Written by Kirstin Harrington
Published: October 7, 2022
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This massive, gregarious, and ground-hugging hornbill is easily identified. The adult female has purple-blue skin in the middle of the red throat patch, while the adult male has a large, brilliant red face and neck wattles. The immature has yellowish skin on their face and looks unkempt. This enormous bird has long, white wingtips that are black while it is in flight. 

Family groups move slowly as they search for large invertebrates and small vertebrates in the grassland and bushes of the savanna. A woman named Bev Field was visiting Kruger National Park when she saw one of these beautiful birds attack a snake

The hornbill attempted to swallow the serpent whole, but it was too much for him. The snake was regurgitated and lay on the sandy ground, right in front of Bev. The large bird picks up the snake and continues to attempt to swallow lunch. 

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The birds can pick up objects from the ground or fruit from trees using the tip of their bills as a finger. The bill’s edges have saw-like notches for grabbing and shredding. This hornbill in Kruger National Park was not expecting the snake to try to kill the bird from beyond, but that’s exactly what happened! 

The Bystander Effect

Anytime the hornbill attempted to eat the snake, it started to choke. Witnessing it was almost something out of an old horror movie. Bev Field says the following about seeing it unfold in person:

“It was very hard to watch the bird struggle and we were heartbroken when we thought the bird was dying. Everything in us wanted to get out of the car and pull the snake out of the bird’s throat. Other than not being allowed out of your car in Kruger, we also knew that trying to help the bird could stress it more than it already was. It probably would have tried to fly away and exhaust itself further. A very difficult, helpless feeling.”

Thankfully, the bird got the message and stopped trying to eat the snake. It left it on the side of the road and continued hunting. Field goes on to say, “Suddenly the bird miraculously got up and managed to regurgitate the snake and then started the process all over again – tenderizing and pecking the snake to eat it all over again.”

As she talks about how incredible her experience was, Bev knows there’s only so much she could’ve done. “This was an extremely rare sighting – literally once in a lifetime and wonderful to have it right on the road. Everything in me wanted to help the bird, but this is nature and it needs to take its course. In the end, the ground hornbill survived without intervention.”

Check out the intense video below! 

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The photo featured at the top of this post is © Martin Mecnarowski/

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About the Author

Kirstin is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering animals, news topics, fun places, and helpful tips. Kirstin has been writing on a variety of topics for over five years. She has her real estate license, along with an associates degree in another field. A resident of Minnesota, Kirstin treats her two cats (Spook and Finlay) like the children they are. She never misses an opportunity to explore a thrift store with a coffee in hand, especially if it’s a cold autumn day!

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