Quick Info Page

Southern Ground Hornbill

Fact File

Class: Aves (Birds),

Order: Coraciiformes (Kingfishers and relatives)

Family:  Bucorvidae (Ground Hornbills)

Found: Africa

Diet: Carnivore.


Conservation Status: Vulnerable

endangered_gauge vun

Vital statistics:

Average weight: male: 4.8 kg.  female: 3.4

Average length:  102 cms

Wingspan average: 1.5 metres

Life expectancy: Life span in the wild up to: Unknown

Life span in captivity up to: 70 years



Southern Ground Hornbill

Habitat:  Southern Ground Hornbills prefer woodland and savannah habitat.  Groups forage on the grassland and roost in the woods commonly in broad leaved trees.

Threats: Southern Ground Hornbills have lost 70% of their habitat has been lost due to agriculture, over grazing and a loss of suitable breeding trees.  Other human influences include indirect poisoning, trapping and direct shooting.

Food: Mainly eat animals such as insects, frogs, mongooses and bird nestlings, anything they are able to overpower.  They forage in groups so that when one bird locates a prey item it can use a low bark call to signal to the others in the flock.  Larger prey items like a snake will be killed by the flock together as a team effort.

Range: Southern Ground Hornbills are distributed  across Southern and eastern Africa from Burundi and Southern Kenya in the north and west to Angola and Northern Namibia and south to South Africa.

Reproduction:  Average incubation: 40 days. Average Clutch size: 2 eggs (1 chick will fledge).

The nesting period lasts from September to December.  There are no courtship displays but Males will produce mating calls while he courts a female.  Attraction between birds is based on the size of the birds once paired the male and female are monogamous.  The nesting area is prepared in a large cavity in or around trees or cliffs by the male.  The male protects the female while she is nesting.  Southern Ground Hornbills use cooperative breeding.  The male and other hornbills in the flock will provide food for the incubating female.  Once the chick hatches the offspring receive care from both the parents and the flock members.  After fledging the chick is relatively self-sufficient, however the parents will continue to guide and provide protection for the off spring until maturity and complete independence.  Some chicks will remain dependent on their parents for as long as 9 years!


  • Southern Ground Hornbills are the largest hornbill in the world.
  • Females differ from males in appearance in that they have a violet patch on the throat rather than the pure red colouration found on the male.
  • They have an inflatable throat sac which helps with the production of their trademark deep reverberating booming sound which can carry over large distances.
  • They rely heavily on their eyesight and have long eyelashes to shade their eyes.
  • They sometimes live as a single breeding pair but more often they are found commonly in a cooperative breeding group.
  • Groups contain 2-11 individuals and defend a territory of up to 100 km2 using duets or choruses of calls.
  • They will groom common warthogs for parasites which will then be eaten.
  • Because they live on the ground they are vulnerable to attack from large predators such as leopards and crocodiles.