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AnimalsFun Facts

The mighty Big 6 birds of the Kruger – The Southern Ground Hornbill

By October 8, 2015No Comments
southern ground hornbill
Male Southern ground hornbill.
The ground hornbill, so called due to its habit of walking on the ground as it feeds, is a bird with character. There are two species of ground hornbills, the Southern ground hornbill and the Abyssinian ground hornbill with the Southern ground hornbill being more widespread and well-known.

These birds are believed to live 50 to 60 years in the wild and have even been recorded to live a lengthy 70 years in captivity! They range in size from 90 to 129 centimetres making it comparable in size to a turkey.

The distinctive Southern ground hornbill male birds are black in colour with intense red patches of bare skin on their faces and throats while juvenile birds have dull grey patches and females have a violet-blue patch on their throat. These patches are thought to keep dust out of the bird’s eyes as they eat off the ground during the dry season. They have black beaks, pale yellow eyes and black wings with white tips that look glorious when in flight. 
southern ground hornbill
Female Southern ground hornbill.

The Southern ground hornbill is found in Eastern and Southern Africa, from Burundi and Kenya to Namibia and South Africa.

They make their home in savannah type habitats with large trees to build their nests and short yet thick grass for foraging. Southern ground hornbills live in numbers of 5 to 10 individual birds.  

Ground hornbills make a deep grunting call often before dawn breaks. They make this sound by inflating their balloon-like wattle that is situated below their beak.

These are foraging birds that munch on reptiles, frogs, snails, insects and even small mammals. They rarely are in need of water to drink.
southern ground hornbill
Southern ground hornbill

These are slow breeding birds, with pairs only producing two chicks every nine years. Southern ground hornbills are co-operative breeders receiving help with parenting by at least two other birds.

The female incubates her eggs for up to 40 days after which the egg that was first laid hatches. The chicks leave the nest 85 days after hatching.
Did you know?

They are classified as being vulnerable and even critically endangered in some areas.