The Southern Ground-Hornbill
The Southern Ground-Hornbill can be found in the southern regions of Africa, ranging from Kenya to South Africa. Recognizable by its pitch-black feathers with white primary feathers (which are only visible in flight), yellow eyes, and bright red throat, these birds are in fact the most fascinating and striking looking bird to spot at Tshukudu Game Lodge.
The bird’s sex is determined by their wattle, which is the fleshy part of the bird’s throat. The male hornbill has a bright red colour and the female displays a blotch of violet blue. Their loud booming calls can be heard from a distance with a “lion-like” sound and they are often mistaken for a roaring lion.
Southern Ground-Hornbills are extremely territorial and spend most of their time strolling around, with a group in search of their next meal such as insects, toads, lizards and snakes. The bird’s bill is a handy tool to chop up their food on the ground before eating. An entire group could be up to 10 individuals with monogamous pairs, pairing for up to 40 years of their lives.
In some countries, Southern Ground-Hornbills have lost 70 – 90% of their original range and are now only common in large, protected areas. This is due to human expansion, extensive farming, bush encroachment, over grazing and climate change. Lacks of large trees result in the birds being unable to find suitable nesting sites.
The Southern Ground-Hornbill population is decreasing and vulnerable to extinction and there are many conservation efforts and awareness campaigns to recover and better protect the Southern Ground-Hornbill population in South Africa, one of them is the APNR Southern Ground-Hornbill Project.
The APNR Southern Ground-Hornbill Project, based in the Greater Kruger National Park, works towards slowing and reversing the decline of the species while carrying out fundamental research on these iconic birds. For the past 20 years, researchers from the Fitzpatrick Institute of African Ornithology have been investigating Southern Ground-Hornbills’ habitat-use, reproductive success, and behaviour. Our efforts focus on installing and monitoring artificial nests, and studying the birds’ reproduction and behaviour.
How can you help?
Any sightings of Southern Ground-Hornbills in the Greater Kruger area of South Africa go towards helping us with our research and regional conservation efforts.
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