The Southern Ground Hornbill

We were lucky enough to see these rare Ground Hornbills, one of the more striking large birds in the bush. They move around in small groups scouting for prey such as lizards, insects and snakes and their distinct call reach over 4 km in distance. Ground Hornbills live long and only reach sexual maturity at 6 years. The flocks are usually of 4 to 9 birds. The dominant pair mate (for life) while the rest contribute to nesting and defend the territory as a cooperative group. Breeding depends on rainfall and the availability of large nesting sites. These are becoming scarcer due to logging, wood collecting and elephant damage. They generally only successfully raise one chick every 6 years so the species are quite endangered.

Apart from their striking looks, they are best known for their call. Their Afrikaans name is Bromvoël or ‘booming’ bird. According to Roberts’ Birds of Southern Africa, bird A will call ‘du du dududu’ and bird B will reply ‘hu hu huhu’’….but if you really want to know watch this. Incidentally, the 2008 pocket sized Roberts Bird Guide of Kruger National Park even has a Ground Hornbill on the cover!