The sighting, September of last year, was our second time seeing this vulnerable species in Kruger National Park. It was around sunset on our way back to our campsite at Pretoriuskop.
This bird not only looks strange, but apparently has some breeding habits that make it very slow to reproduce. According to wikitardia, Southern Ground Hornbills are “cooperative breeders” meaning there is a dominant breeding pair in the group, assisted by at least two other birds (male or female).
I’m gonna’ call those helper birds the fluffers. Okay, so that’s not really true to the definition of what they’re doing to “help.” They’re just watching over the nest, not actually assisting reproduction.
Anyhoo, apparently during observation in captivity, those fluffers who didn’t assist the breeding pair for at least six years don’t seem to be able to breed themselves. Uh…seriously?
As if breeding itself weren’t enough, apparently they lay two eggs but one of the chicks generally starves to death, because the group focuses on feeding only the strongest of the two.
I cannot understand at all why they are dying out.
Well, okay, so I find it sad that they’re a vulnerable species anyway. They’re kinda’ cool birds. They’re quirky, interesting-looking, and they feed on snakes and squirrels (which squirrel-hater Kurt says is a plus, plus in his book).
Happy Over-the-hump Day, readers!