|Photo by Marco Valentini (Internet Bird Collection)
southern ground-hornbill (en); calau-gigante (pt); bucorve du Sud (fr); cálao terrícola (es); kaffernhornrabe (de)
This species is found from Kenya and Tanzania, through southern D.R. Congo and Zambia and into Angola, Mozambique and eastern South Africa.
These birds are 90-102 cm long. The females are smaller and weigh 2,3-4,6 kg, while the larger males weigh 3,5-6,2 kg.
These birds are found in open woodlands and savannas, as well as nearby grasslands and scrublands, pastures and agricultural land. They are present from sea level up to an altitude of 3.000 m.
They mainly feed on arthropods, but also snails, frogs and toads, and sometimes larger prey such as snakes, lizards, rats, hares, squirrels or tortoises. There are also known to eat fruits, seeds and occasionally carrion.
The southern ground-hornbill breeds in September-March. They are monogamous, social breeders, with a dominant pair that breeds and helpers. They nest in a large cavity, in a tree or cliff, where the female lays 2 white eggs. The eggs are incubated by the female for 40 days, while the other group members bring her food. Usually only 1 chick is raised, being fed by all the members of the group and fledging 85-86 days after hatching.
IUCN status – VU (Vulnerable)
This species has a very large breeding range is reported to be widespread and common but sparse. The population is projected to suffer a large decline of up to 50% in the next three generation, as a result of habitat loss through clearance for small-scale use, agriculture, and because of fires, and perhaps because of the actions of African elephants Loxodonta africana in Botswana and South Africa. Widespread livestock grazing has also lead to the erosion of suitable grasslands and there is also some persecution and accidental poisoning when they consume poisoned baits. In South Africa there are extensive conservation programs for this species, including re-introductions, supplementary feeding, multiple clutching, group supplementation and artificial nest-site provisioning.