Mike Unwin
United Kingdom UK
Jun 18, 2014 June 18, 2014

Mike is an award winning wildlife writer, editor of Travel Zambia magazine and author of the Bradt Guide to Southern African Wildlife.

Categories: African Wildlife, Birds, Conservation & Sustainability

The Ground Hornbill 

Meet the Ground Hornbill. As big and black as turkeys, wielding bills like hatchets, these charismatic birds cut an unmistakable dash as they strut around the bush in small family parties. There are two similar species: the southern ground hornbill (Bucorvus leadbeateri) is much the more widespread and better known; the Abyssinian ground hornbill (Bucorvus abyssinicus) occurs only north of the Equator.

5 Fascinating Facts

The southern ground hornbill (Bucorvus leadbeateri) is now  (actually, since 2014) classified as an endangered species within South Africa. The key factors contributing to this classification are loss or change of habitat, persecution, poisoning, and electrocution. Conservationists are taking steps to turn this around. Here are some interesting bird facts that might surprise you:

  1. Ground hornbills call together before dawn in a chorus of repeated low grunting notes that sounds not unlike a distant lion. They amplify their calls by inflating the big, red, balloon-like wattle below their bill.
  2. Small animals need to lie low when a party of ground hornbills is out foraging because these omnivores snap up anything – from insects and lizards to small birds, rodents, tortoises and snakes as big as puff adders.
  3. Ground hornbills are very slow breeders and, as a result, a pair produces just one brood of two chicks every nine years, only one of which survives. Immature birds within the social group work as ‘helpers’, caring for the single chick.
  4. Ground hornbills have lived up to 70 years in captivity. This makes them one of the world’s longest-lived birds, on par with albatrosses.
  5. Since traditional African cultures saw ground hornbills as harbingers of rain, killing them was taboo. Thus, sadly, with the passing of such beliefs, these birds have become increasingly threatened.

Support conservation

Wildlife conservation entails the protection and preservation of the ecological integrity of all natural habitats, as well as all the wildlife that dwell within them. If we neglect to sustain them, we will subsequently diminish our planet's resources and capacity to support our very own existence.  At Safari Bookings, we take conservation very seriously. And we will continue to support the efforts to protect and conserve African wildlife. As an example of our determination and commitment, we recently launched a Rhino Donation Campaign. Read all about it on our blog or go to our Facebook page. We must advocate for these animals, because in doing so, we are advocating for ourselves and our planet.