This week we spotlight
Southern Ground Hornbill
The largest of the Hornbills, Southern Ground Hornbills are one of two members of the Ground Hornbill family, the other being the Abyssian Ground Hornbill which we also keep. They are found in open grassland, savannahs & woodlands of Africa, south of the Equator. Due to habitat destruction and a slow breeding rate they are listed as vulnerable.
Southern Ground Hornbills can reach up to130cm long and 6.2 kilo in weight. Males are larger than females and the females have patches of blue on the red throat pouch. They are long legged as they spend much time on the ground and are armed with a large, powerful beak with the males having a larger casque, possibly for display. The body is black except for white wing tips. Long eyelashes keep sand and dust out of the eye
They are a social bird, often living in groups of up to 10 with a breeding pair at the head of the group. Large numbers means that the territory can be protected but also with lots of helpers, plenty of food can be found for the chicks. This is also ‘work experience’ for younger birds gaining experience for the time that they may go on to breed. Deep booming calls carry and keep the birds in contact
Nests are built in tree cavities or occasionally cliffs. The nest consists of twigs and is lined with grass and leaves. Both parents and helpers will build the nest. 2 eggs are laid and incubated by the female for 40 days, whilst the group brings her food. Only one chick will be raised and will fledge at around 86 days and continue to rely on the group for up to a year. They can breed from the age of 7 but rarely do so, assisting rear other birds chicks instead.
Ground Hornbills are carnivorous, feeding only on meat. Anything from snails and insects up to snake and hares can be taken and the large bill can be used to both dig and attack.
We currently keep a pair in the middle of the park, a young male originally from Marwell and an older female. Plans are in place to hopefully expand the size and shape of their aviary in the next few months. The are fed on day old chicks, mice and rats and occasionally fruit is offered and taken.
In other news
The King Penguin chick is doing very well and is now nearly triple its hatch weight in just 3 weeks
The Hawaiian Geese have been moved into the Ibis aviary
Two male Bartlett’s Doves have departed to a private breeder with our female incubating one egg at present
Wildlife wise there are still a few Dragonflies around and a large group of Long Tailed Tits is being seen most days. A Sparrowhawk female (larger than the male) is also around at present so we are having to keep a close eye on her.
Thanks for reading