In (almost) memory of the Southern Ground Hornbill
Pitch black feathers, bright red and puffy throat skin, a huge, sharp beak and weighing in at around 4kgs (9lbs)… the Southern Ground Hornbill really does look like something from the set of Jurassic Park! This incredible bird certainly gets my vote for fan favourite – not only due to its quirky appearance and low, booming call (heard up to 3km away) but also due to this bird being a true survivor.
We all know about the plight of Rhinos but what about this guy? Considered vulnerable internationally, the Southern Ground Hornbill in classified as endangered within South Africa with between 1500-2000 birds remaining. Fighting habitat loss, loss of nesting sites, traditional medicine and accidental poisoning… these birds are extremely overlooked.
Travelling around in groups of 2- 9 the small army of birds is lead by a dominant pair and live up to 40yrs! These Ground Hornbills don’t have the greatest track record in rearing their chicks to maturity, whilst the female lays 2 eggs a couple of weeks apart, she will incubate for six weeks all the while being taken care of by the male. Generally, chick #2 is out competed by chick #1 and often dies within the first week of hatching. If the first hatched is lucky enough, it will be part of the elite 31% who make it to maturity (7yrs).
Coming across this rare species on safari is always immensely special as we watch them hunt a variety of species incl snails, frogs, snakes, insects, mice and fledglings. Although many people come from far and wide to view the Big Five, sitting back and appreciating all the bush has to offer just gives a well-rounded and more meaningful experience. Coming across creatures like this, is to many experienced bush-goers the equivalent of discovering something as special as a Rhino.
- Camera – Nikon D7200
- Lens – Sigma 150-600 contemporary lens
- ISO – 800
- Aperture – f/6,3
- Shutter – 1/320
Editing used on this image:
I increased the whites and highlights and sharpened the image. This photo was captured in the early morning sunlight making it slightly dark. As with many images of these birds, the thick grass and moving subject made it a relatively difficult shot.