By Ranger Pete
Jock Safari Lodge
Southern Ground Hornbills are large black birds with striking red facial skin and big beautiful eyes with the longest eyelashes that you have ever seen.
They spend most of their time on the ground, walking around searching for food, although they roost at night and nest in trees.
They are veracious predators and eat just about anything they can catch. You’ll find them feeding on grasshoppers; frogs; lizards; snakes; mice; chameleons; baby birds; eggs; scorpions and even baby hares.
An amazing thing about ground hornbills is they don't breed every year, they may, but usually it is more like once every few years that a flock will breed.
When they do breed, the female will lay two eggs, but the flock will only raise one chick. The other egg is just an insurance policy in case the first egg doesn't hatch. It will take 9 years for the flock to raise that young chick to reach its full adult plumage and maturity.
A major loss of habitat (due to man and agriculture), combined with their very slow reproductive rate has lead to a drastic decrease in their numbers. Over the last century we have lost two thirds of the total population.
These birds are very special indeed and we are very privileged to have a flock nesting close to Jock Safari Lodge.
The other day I went out with the researchers and checked up on the nest. We put a very long ladder up into the top branches of the giant old Jackalberry tree in which they are nesting. We retrieved the SD card from the camera the researchers had put up so we could see what’s been happening up there, changed the cameras batteries and put in a new card.
The camera had been taking wonderful pictures of the birds bringing nesting materials in to the nest site, which is a big natural hollow in the top of the tree trunk, and they have also been bringing in food items for the female who is now nest bound.
We then moved the ladder across and I climbed up and cautiously peered into the nest itself, and I was delighted to see a beautiful big white egg in the bottom of the nest. It was partly hidden by the leaves and other nesting material, and when I moved these away to get a better look, I discovered that there was a second beautiful big white egg there too! So we are delighted that our female Southern Ground Hornbill has laid her two eggs for this season and is now sitting on them.
We will keep you updated with the progress of our Ground Hornbill flock as we eagerly await the arrival of our two new chicks!