A good place for birding in Africa is the Selous especially for the big Ground Hornbill, in some other parts of Africa the number of these birds is decreasing every day and considered internationally as vulnerable throughout their range in Africa by IUCN.
Male Southern ground hornbills have orange necks and throat skin, females have orange skin but with a patch on the throat.
They prefer the grassland, scrub and light woodlands. Southern ground hornbills spend all their daytime hours on the ground, although they spend night time high in the trees. They often walk with antelope, zebra and other mammals taking advantage of food disturbed by the herds. They have permanent pair bonds and offspring may spend several years as part of the family defending a territory that varies in size from 5 to 20 square miles.
Their diet is exclusively carnivorous. They eat lizards, birds, snakes small mammals and insects. The prey is either killed instantly with the beak or by repeated stabbing. The whole family group may be involved with the killing of a large snake.
The dominant female will lay two eggs in a tree cavity. Eggs hatch after 40 days, but only one chick leaves the nest after three months and may remain in the family group for up to nine years.
The species is persecuted in many areas and is sometimes deliberately poisoned; their ernormous territories restrict the number of birds that can exist in any given area. The reproductive cycle of Ground hornbills is one of the slowest of all birds. A group will successfully raise a chick about once every nine years.
It is estimated that there are only about 1500 Ground Hornbill left in South Africa, which are safe within the protected areas. This means there are only an estimated 417 breeding group in the whole of South Africa. The reasons for their decline are predominantly loss of habitat to croplands, bush-encroachment, overgrazing, plantations, loss of nesting trees, secondary poisoning and electrocution.
Luckily the numbers of Ground Hornbills in the Selous are thriving.