The Southern Ground Hornbill is a long-lived bird, and is the largest co-operative breeding bird in the world (and as such, is of great interest to science). They live in groups of 2 to 12 individuals that occupy and vigorously defend large territories of up to 100 square kilometres. Groups can either consist of a single breeding pair or a large group with a dominant breeding pair and helpers of various ages.
The Southern Ground Hornbill occurs in a number of southern African countries in woodland savannah, open grassveld and agricultural lands. It spends most of its time searching slowly along the ground for food. It is predominantly carnivorous, feeding on a large range of insects, reptiles, amphibians and small to medium sized mammals.
The sexes look alike, but once they are fully mature, the male has fully red facial skin, while the female has a patch of violet blue below the bill, which in some cases can cover most of the lower parts of the facial skin.
Although it should be less vulnerable to extinction, due to the fact that its habitat requirements are not as narrow as locally endemic species and because it occurs in more than one,
its numbers have declined sharply in recent years. At present Southern Ground Hornbills are considered ‘vulnerable’ and their numbers are still declining.