The Southern Ground Hornbill is a large bird; at 90 to 129 cm (36 to 51 in) long and a weight of 3.2 to 6.2 kg (7-13.6 lbs), it is the largest species of hornbill. Males are larger than females.
Adult male: Characterized by black plumage and vivid red-coloured face and throat pouches. The white tips of the wings (primary feathers) seen in flight are another diagnostic characteristic. The beak is black, straight and presents a casque.
Adult female: Similar to the male, but has a smaller bill and casque than the male, and a small blue throat patch between the red throat pouches.
Juvenile: The plumage is sooty brown, and the bare facial skin is dull cream to yellow.
Its habitat comprises savannahs, woodlands and grasslands.
The Southern Ground Hornbill is a vulnerable species, mainly confined to national reserves and national parks. Conservation efforts include captive breeding, as well as projects where second-hatched chicks (which soon die in the wild as they cannot compete for food with the older chick) are removed from the nest and have been successfully hand-reared and reintroduced to the wild.
They live in groups of five to ten individuals including adults and juveniles. Often, neighbouring groups are engaged in aerial pursuits. They forage on ground, where they feed on reptiles, frogs, snails, insects and small mammals.
Insects, frogs, snails, lizards, snakes and small mammals.
The voice is a deep, booming hudu hudu hududu (male deeper than the female) that can be heard over a distance of three kilometres.
Monogamous and a cooperative breeder; the dominant pair may have as many as nine helpers. Most nests are in a cavity in a dead or live tree; the nest is not sealed by the male, as is done in other Hornbill species. One or two eggs are laid August to January. The eggs hatch asynchronously, and only one chick survives in the wild. Juveniles are dependent on adults for 6 to 12 months, but generally remain with the parental group for several years.