Scientific Name:
Bucorvus leadbeteri

Conservation Status:

Where to see them:
African Plains

Fun Facts:

Male southern ground hornbills have orange necks and throat skin; females have orange skin but with a patch of blue at the throat.

Zoo Atlanta’s southern ground hornbills hatched at the San Antonio Zoo. Female Zazu hatched in 1995 and male Gumby in 1997.

The Zoo’s hornbills love to show off their food through the viewing glass. Zazu loves to make kids squeal when she shows them her breakfast. These are highly intelligent birds.


 Ground Hornbill

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Height is 24 to 30 inches.

Eastern and southern Africa


Savanna grasslands and scrub, light woodlands

Southern ground hornbills spend almost all their daytime hours on the ground, although they spend the nights high in trees. They often walk with antelope, zebra  and other mammals, taking advantage of food disturbed by the herds. Ground hornbills have permanent pair bonds, and offspring may spend several years as part of the family group. The species is territorial, and all family members defend a territory that varies in size from five to 20 square miles.

Diet is exclusively carnivorous. Southern ground hornbills will eat lizards, birds, snakes and small mammals and insects – anything they can overpower. 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.

Life Cycle

The dominant female will lay two eggs in a tree cavity. Eggs hatch after 40 days, but only one chick survives beyond a few days. The chick leaves the nest after three months and may remain in the family group for up to nine years.

Some of My Neighbors (IN THE WILD)

Antelopes, wildebeest, zebra, crowned cranes, kori bustards

Population Status & Threats
The species is persecuted in many areas and is sometimes deliberately poisoned.  Their enormous territories restrict the numbers of birds that can exist in any given area. The reproductive rate is one of the slowest of all birds. A group will successfully raise a chick about once every nine years. Lifespan is up to 50 years.