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Southern Ground Hornbill

Southern Ground Hornbill

Southern Ground Hornbill

Southern Ground Hornbill – English

Bromvoel – Afrikaans

Hornrable – German

Calao Terrestre, Bucorve du Sud – French

Calao-gigante – Portuguese

Zuidelijke Hoornraaf – Dutch

The Southern Ground Hornbill is the largest of the 5 Hornbills found in southern Africa (African Grey Hornbill, Red-Billed Hornbill, Southern Yellow-Billed Hornbill, and Trumpeter Hornbill) Conspicuous by their size, the male weighs 4.3kg and the female 3.4kg and varies in height between 90cm-130cm, the male has the larger bill. They are very distinctive with their bare red skin on the upper neck. Juveniles’ facial skin is initially pale grey/brown, turning yellow within a year and flecked red after 2 years, orange after 3 years, and only fully red after 4-6 years. They are normally found in groups of 3-5 birds.

Ground Hornbill


Found in Kenya, DRC, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Botswana, and in the east and northeastern South Africa (Kruger National Park).


The Southern Ground Hornbill is currently classified as Vulnerable under the criteria A4bcd. In Southern Africa, it is listed as Endangered. Widespread but at low densities with only 600-700 birds in the Kruger National Park and about 1500 in South Africa.


Southern Ground Hornbills are territorial and resident..Southern ground hornbills are carnivorous and hunt mostly on the ground. Their food ranges from insects to small animals. Their nests are often found in high tree cavities or other shallow cavities, such as rock holes in cliff faces. These birds are a long-lived species, having lifespans in the range of 50–60 years, and up to 70 in captivity


Inhabits a wide range of grassland, savanna, and woodland. From montane grasslands at 2000m to the Lowveld at 450m, the Southern Ground Hornbill will not be found in treeless areas like the Kalahari or dense thickets and forests.

Diet – Foraging, and Food:

Southern Ground Hornbills walk slowly, in a group, searching for a wide range of prey like termite alates, dung beetles, grasshoppers, frogs, snakes, lizards, chameleons, tortoises, mongoose, birds, and even young hares. They seldom eat vegetable material.


A well-known, monogamous, cooperative breeder with up to nine helpers. They nest in a natural cavity in a tree 2-9 meters above the ground. They lay 1-2 eggs in October-November with an incubation period of 37-43 days and fledge after 86 days

Southern Ground Hornbill

Juvenile Southern Ground Hornbill.

Conservation Status:

Vulnerable in Southern Africa due to their slow population turnover. They are susceptible to poisoning while foraging and persecuted for breaking house and car windows when hammering at the reflection. Generally revered by the African people and collected occasionally as ‘muti’ associated with bringing rain.

Interesting Facts about the Southern Ground Hornbill:

1: Southern Ground-Hornbill is believed to reach maturity at about eight years of age
2: An average of one chick fledged every six years.
3: The juvenile mortality rate is approximately 70%.
4: They usually live for 40 to 50 years; the oldest bird recorded was more than 60 years old.
5: Southern Ground Hornbills are amongst the heaviest bird species capable of flight, weighing up to 6kgs (13 pounds) and measuring around 1 meter (3.3 feet) in length
6:They have strong social bonds, living in family groups of up to 11 members, including several generations
7: They prefer the savannas, grasslands, and woodlands of sub-Sahara Africa.
8: They have a very distinctive call that can be heard up to 3 km away, often likened to the sound of a deep “hoo-hoo-hoo”
9: In some African cultures, the hornbill is revered and considered to a symbol of power and protection.
10: The Southern Ground hornbill is on the Endangered Species (IUCN) list due to illegal trade and collisions with power lines.
11: They are cooperative hunters, often working in groups to find food. They use their strong beaks to dig into the soil to uncover insects and other prey.
12: They mark their territory by striking their beaks against tree trunks and other hard surfaces. This behavior is known as “clappering”.
13: Their nests are built in tree cavities, where females incubate the eggs and the group takes care of the young chicks.
14: They are slow fliers and prefer to spend most of their day on the ground walking and looking for food.

For more information about the Southern Ground Hornbill click here

For another interesting article about the Southern Ground Hornbill click here

For accommodation in the Hoedspruit and Kruger National Park area click here

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