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Friday, September 5, 2014

Species Fact Profile: Southern Ground Hornbill (Bucorvus leadbeateri)

Southern Ground Hornbill
Bucorvus leadbeateri (Vigors, 1825)

Range: Southern and Eastern Africa
Habitat: Woodland, Savannah
Diet: Arthropods, Amphibians, Lizards, Small Mammals, Carrion, Fruits
Social Grouping: Pair or Cooperative Breeding Family
Reproduction: Monogamous, mating takes place September through December, with two eggs laid in a cave or hollow tree (usually only one chick survives), the incubation period is 40 days, followed by a fledging period of 85 days, sexually mature at 3 years of age,  older offspring sometimes remain with parents to assist with future chicks; normally breed successfully every third year
Lifespan: 50 Years, 70 Years (Maximum, Captivity)
Conservation Status: IUCN Vulnerable

  • The world's largest hornbill species: length is 90-130 centimeters, females weigh 2.2-4.6 kilograms, males weigh 3.5-6.1 kilograms
  • Black plumage (except for white primary feathers, visible when the bird is in flight) contrasts with bright red skin on the face and throat; the bill is long, thick, and down-curving with a small casque on top (females have a more violet patch on the throat)
  • Sometimes observed grooming warthogs for parasites, which it feeds upon
  • Groups defend territories of up to 100 square kilometers with deep, booming calls, produced with the bird's inflatable throat sacs
  • Unlike most hornbills, they spend most of their daylight hours on the ground, walking through the grasses to find food and collecting multiple food items in its beak before swallowing them all at once; at night, it roosts in trees for safety
  • Many southern African cultures viewed the species as a herald of the rains and refrained from hunting it, though this cultural tradition is since fading
  • Species is in decline due to habitat loss (especially loss of trees with suitable breeding cavities - one conservation strategy has been the provision of artificial nest boxes), direct persecution, and collisions with power-lines

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