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Southern Ground Hornbill

Fact File

Continent: Africa
Habitat: Dry grasslands
Weight and Length: 4.8kg, 100cm
Diet: Carnivore (eats meat)
Incubation: 37-43 days
Number of Young: 1



  • When they become sexually mature, the skin of males’ faces becomes red, and females’ becomes red, and violet below the bill.
  • Are quiet birds, making ‘booming’ sounds primarily during the mating season to attract mates. However, they may make a low booming sound to communicate with relatives.
  • Enjoy play fighting and chasing each other.
  • Have binocular vision like humans, and long eyelashes to protect their eyes, as sight is very important to them so they can manipulate objects.

Southern Ground Hornbill

Bucorvus leadbeateri

Animals, Birds, Bucerotiformes (hornbills and relatives), Bucerotidae (hornbills)

Southern Ground Hornbills are a long lived monogamous species of African roosting birds. They are the largest species of hornbill, are mainly black with white wing-tips and have red bare skin patches on their heads and throats as adults. Though their life expectancy in the wild is over 30 years, they can live for 70 years in captivity!

Its breeding habits are very interesting. Bigger birds are seen as more attractive, so the largest male and female will be the dominant pair and the only ones allowed to breed in their group. However, the pair need helper birds to help raise their chicks or they will not be successful. The helper birds gain chick rearing experience by helping the dominant pair. Only birds with years of experience as helpers will eventually successfully raise their own chicks. These hornbills are also slow breeders, being one of only two species that is thought to breed every 3 years. Only one chick will survive to independence, which they may not reach until they are 2 years old, the oldest of any bird.

They are classed as “Vulnerable”. Loss of nesting habitat is their largest threat, which is often cleared for agriculture or by fires, or possibly by elephants in areas. They may also be persecuted, fed poisoned bait, or killed to prevent drought according to superstition.

Habitat:They live in dry grasslands and savannahs, preferring to have woodland nearby to roost in.

Vital Statistics:
–Average weight: 4.8kg
–Average length: 100cm

Life Expectancy:
In the wild up to: 50 years
In captivity up to: 70 years

Diet: Eat a range of small animals, and rarely, dead animals.

Distribution: Sub-Saharan Africa