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Southern Ground-Hornbill
Bucorvus leadbeateri

Bucerotiforme Order - Bucorvidae Family  

Length: 90-130cm; Weight: M: 3500 to 6200 g; F: 2250 to 4600g

LONGEVITY: 40 years

Southern Ground-Hornbill is the largest of Hornbill species of Asia, India and Africa. It has black plumage and typical red-facial skin. It is a large black bird, with white flight feathers, conspicuous in flight.

It has bright red face and bare inflatable throat patches. Eyes are pale grey green.
Bill is powerful and black. It is great curved with a kind of hollow casque above, probably playing some role in displays or male selection. This casque is more developed in males than females.
Legs and feet are strong and black.

The female is smaller than male, and has violet blue throat patches, and sometimes this colour can cover most of the lower parts of face.

The chicks hatch with pink skin, turning black within three days.

The juvenile has pale grey brown facial skin, and is browner than adults.

Southern Ground-Hornbill is carnivorous. It spends its time walking slowly along the ground, searching for food, mainly small animals and insects. It walks with stubby toes elevated, almost walking on tip-toe. It forages on the ground, digging with the bill for food. But to hunt some difficult prey such as snakes, they gather in groups. Southern Ground-Hornbill uses its powerful bill to kill prey. Large prey are pursued and dismembered by several group members.       

These birds roost in trees. They travel in small family groups, but they are sedentary. 
In typical territorial behaviour, it may attack its own reflection in glasses of houses or cars, breaking them.  

Southern ground-Hornbill performs aerial pursuits when it defends the territory. They travel in small groups.

Female usually lays two white eggs, but only one chick is raised. Incubation lasts about 40 days, by female fed by group members. The first egg hatches about 3 to 5 days before the second. The first chick weights about 250 g when the second hatches, at about 60 g. The oldest chick out-competes its younger sibling for food, and it dies within the first week.
Chick is fed 4 to 9 times a day, by group members, carrying variety of food in the bill tip. During the nesting period, members of the group help the nesting pair, searching for food. The young fledges about 86 days after hatching. The juvenile depends on adults for several months, sometimes one year.

Southern Ground-Hornbill is carnivorous. It feeds on lizards, frogs, snails and insects (grasshoppers, beetles and termites), but also on small mammals, such as hares and squirrels, and also snakes.
They may consume some vegetation (fruit and seeds) and sometimes scavenge.

As Southern Ground-Hornbill raises only one chick, conservationists collect the hatchlings left to starve, and they raise them by hand-reared, to make them available for re-introduction. This hand-rearing of Southern Ground-Hornbills hatchlings is part of wide ranging projects in South Africa.
The bird species is classified as “vulnerable”. But it is much more threatened than previously though, and the bird’s status could change to “endangered”.
This species is mainly confined to national reserves and parks. Its habitat is threatened by human development. However, it is common and widespread, except in some areas of South Africa and Zimbabwe.
This species may live up to 60 years in captivity.  

Fr: Bucorve du Sud
All : Kaffernhornrabe
Esp : Cálao Terrestre Sureño
Ital : Bucorvo cafro
Nd : Zuidelijke Hoornraaf

Photographs of birds' portraits by Callie de Wet

Photographs of the bird walking by Steve Garvie
RAINBIRDER Photo galleries

Photograph of the birds perched in tree by Didier Buysse
Vision d’Oiseaux

Text by Nicole Bouglouan


HANDBOOK OF THE BIRDS OF THE WORLD Vol 6 by  Josep del Hoyo-Andrew Elliott-Jordi Sargatal - Lynx Edicions, 2001 - ISBN: 848733430X

BIRDS OF AFRICA SOUTH OF THE SAHARA by Ian Sinclair and Peter Ryan - Princeton University Press Princeton and Oxford - ISBN: 0691118159

L’ENCYCLOPEDIE MONDIALE DES OISEAUX - Dr Christopher M. Perrins -  BORDAS - ISBN: 2040185607

Avibase (Lepage Denis)

Longevity records

Wikipedia (Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia)

CREAGUS@Monterey Bay (Don Roberson)


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Summary cards


Southern Ground-Hornbill utters strong calls at dawn while defending the territories in small groups. During the breeding season, male utters loud “booming” calls. It is vocal in early morning and late afternoon.

Southern Ground-Hornbill lives in savannahs, open grasslands and woodlands. They prefer moist habitats, but they can be found at 3000 metres in east Africa.

Southern Ground-Hornbill lives in Africa. Its range extends from the equator to the southern tip of the continent. 
It is an active bird, always moving. They live in groups of up to 12 birds. They occupy and defend large territories of up to 100 square kilometres.
These groups include a single breeding pair or a dominant breeding pair with helpers of various ages, usually adult males and immature of both sexes. They defend territories against other groups, chasing each other in aerial pursuits.
Adult female may move to other close group or live solitary, near mammals.
Southern Ground-Hornbill breeds in October to December. It nests in natural cavities and holes, in dead or live trees, or in cliffs. This species does not seal the nest entrance. Nest is built by breeding pair and helpers. It is lined with dry leaves and grasses.