Ground Hornbill


Scientific Name: Bucorvus abyssinicus
Geographical Range: Subsaharan Africa
Habitat: Steppes, Savannas, and Woodland
Diet in the Wild: Small animals, such as lizards, amphibians, mammals, birds, spiders, and insects.  Some fruits and seeds.
Conservation Status: They are listed as vulnerable in South Africa and can only be found in reserves.
Location in the Zoo: African Savanna

Physical Description:
They have black feathers, a large bill with a large growth, known as a casque, long eyelashes, stubby legs and toes, and broad soles.  The circumorbital skin is blue, the extensive inflatable bare area on the throat and the inflatable foreneck are red with a blue area at the front of the throat.  Males get red on the inflatable throat pouch and females remain all blue.  Their height is usually up to three feet and their wing span can be up to six feet. 
Social Organization:
The are usually found in pairs, trios or quartets with young birds.
Special Adaptations: In South Africa the tribes use these birds as a tribal medicine.  It is also custom to have one in the village because the villagers believe it brings them good luck.  In Sudan, the native hunters will tie a stuffed head to their own head and will crawl through the grass while searching for prey.  When the prey see this image they think that it is only the Abyssinian Ground Hornbill and are not suspicious. 
Photo courtesy of Natural Encounters
Reproductive Behavior: 
Slow breeders don't reach sexual maturity until they are about four years old.  The females only produce two eggs and they are incubated by her for about a month long.  After the eggs are hatched there is a competition between the two babies for the food brought by the parents.  After a few days, one of the babies will die due to the lack of food.  The remaining baby continues to live in the nest for an additional three months and is fed by the parents for an extra nine months. 
The Animal at the Zoo:
At the Fort Worth Zoo the Abyssinian Ground Hornbills are placed in a fenced area with other antelope-type animals.  The day that I observed them, there was only one in the fence.  He spent most of his time pacing back and forth on the grassy area, looking at all of the people. He was also seen scratching himself with his beak, pecking at a rock and running from one side of the fence to the other.  On the information board I read that these birds prefer running or walking to flying.  The only time they have been seen flying is when they are startled or encounter really tall grass.
Page Author:
Rebecca Lamont            imitator06@yahoo.com

Sources and Links:

WhoZoo Home

WhoZoo Animal Index

Birds at the Fort Worth Zoo