Southern Ground Hornbill (Bucorvus leadbeateri)
Scientific name: Bucorvus leadbeateri
Common name: Southern Ground Hornbill
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species Status: Across their range Vulnerable but in South Africa Endangered
Population estimate (in the wild): around 1500 in South Africa
Population trend: Decreasing
The Southern Ground Hornbill has a distinctive Dudu Dudu dududu call which can be heard up to 4km away. Although they are listed as Vulnerable across their range, in South Africa they have already been listed as Endangered, with only around 1500 individuals left in the wild.
Ground Hornbills are associated with open savanna, woodlands, grasslands and cultivated areas, where they walk slowly in their search for food. They are characterized by their large size (90-130 cm); dark black plumage and red wattle. Sexes are differentiated by looking at the colour of the wattle, with males being solely red and females having a violet-blue patch on their throat.
Southern Ground Hornbills are long lived and slow breeders with the monogamous pair breeding every second year. Although two eggs are laid by the female in their cavity nests, typically only a single chick is reared to adulthood. Being cooperative breeders, the dominant adult male will have a group of helpers, typically male offspring who will assist with bringing food back to the nest for the female and chick. The chick will leave the nest and start foraging with the adults after around 86 days.
Southern Ground Hornbills are indiscriminate feeders, preying on any small animals they can overpower and swallow in one piece. Prey species include insects and their larvae, snakes, rodents and small mammals up to the size of a young scrub hare.
The major threat to the Southern Ground Hornbill is Habitat loss and destruction, with the majority of individuals being confined to protected areas in South Africa. Persecution is another threat due to their tendency to break windows when they see their reflection. They are also occasionally hunted for the traditional medicine trade.