Wednesday 15 February 2012

Southern Ground Hornbill

Image: Arno & Louise Wildlife via Flickr
Black and red. A colour combination of ultimate menace, minx and yes, even jinx. Yet this, the world's biggest hornbill, likes to mix it all up with a bit of wholesome, family values.

Image: Tarique Sani via Flickr
The Southern Ground Hornbill gets its name from living in southern Africa and spending most of its time on the ground. A big male may be 129 cm (51 in) long and weigh up to 6.2 kg (13.6 lbs), while the females are a bit smaller.

Image: digitalART2 via Flickr
Female, depicting blue patch on her throat
Another difference between the sexes is the throat pouch. In males it's completely red, in females it's red with a patch of dark blue.

Isn't that duet amazing? It sounds like something modern and experimental to me. I actually found it quite difficult to believe it was them singing. So here's another video of a couple who seems to require a little more practise.

Image: kibuyu via Flickr
Southern Ground Hornbills are almost entirely carnivorous, spending their days walking around grasslands and savannah in search of insects, amphibians, reptiles, young birds, mammals, carrion... I think you can sum it up by saying they eat everything they possibly can. So long as it's not salad.

Image: kibuyu via Flickr
They can fly when they want to, at which point you can see their white wing tips. They roost in trees at night, and make their nest by lining tree cavities with leaves. The female incubates 1 or 2 eggs for over a month, but only one chick will survive.

Image: David Schenfeld via Flickr
When the chick is young, mother will only leave the nest for brief periods. She'll have to wait until the hatchling is a month old before she can really start foraging for food in earnest.

Image: Kleinz1 via Flickr
Until then she is largely dependant on the male for her meals. But not only him, because they comprise the dominant pair in a whole family of Southern Ground Hornbills. There can be up to 11 of them, both adults and juveniles helping the parents raise the chick.

Image: David Schenfeld via Flickr
Juvenile Southern Ground Hornbill, depicting pale coloured throat
Youngsters have a rather pallid throat, the vibrant red apparently reserved only for those with the maturity to be responsible with it. They'll be dependant on their mother for up to year and won't reach adulthood for 4 years. Plenty of time to help out around the house!

Image: chuck.derby via Flickr
It's quite heart-warming.

Image: Arno & Louise Wildlife via Flickr
Which is weird, because I look into those imperious eyes and it's like...


TexWisGirl said...

ha ha! they're really neat looking (and even stranger sounding! almost like a nasal horn!)

Joseph JG said...

A nasal horn, haha! Yeh, I really like their looks. They're like reasonably friendly, slightly bored dinosaurs.

jpbenney said...

The Southern Ground Hornbill has to be the most major omission from David Chandler’s (otherwise) impressive 100 Birds to See Before you Die.

As the largest fully altricial landbird and perhaps the longest-lived of all birds (it’s tough to measure because they can outlive even durable Monel metal bands), the Southern Ground Hornbill is unique. When one considers its lifestyle as a social predator capable apparently of overturning and killing tortoises, along with its breeding system with obligate cooperative breeding, obligate siblicide and the longest period of parental dependence (young are not self-feeding for over a year after they can fly) of any bird, its omission in favour of species that are merely spectacular is dubious at best.