A few mornings ago we had such an awesome sighting of a Southern Ground Hornbill catching a Puffadder, stabbing it to death, and feasting on its hard-earned meal. The fact that there are only an estimated 1500 of these beautiful birds left in South Africa, makes this an even more special sighting. They are very much at risk due to habitat destruction and a very slow reproduction rate of only 1 chick every 6-9 years. Because of this, they are classified as endangered, possibly critically endangered on the IUCN Red List.

The Southern Ground Hornbill is the largest of the hornbill species, growing up to about 1.30 metres in height. They live in small social groups and are very territorial. Within a social group, there is only one dominant monogamous breeding pair, with the others being helpers. Two eggs are normally laid in summer, but only one survives and the other starves to death. The young are dependant on the parents for up to 1 year and will stay with the group for several years.

Hornbills are mainly carnivores, and will eat frogs, reptiles, birds, snakes and large insects. They use their sharp bills to stab their prey. They have very strong legs and spend most of their daytime walking around looking for food, even occasionally running or jumping after their prey. At night they roost in trees or high rocks.

Next time you’re out on a safari, remember to be on the look-out for these amazing creatures!

Maggie – River Lodge Ranger

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