In our latest Week in Video we featured a sequence of a small family of Southern Ground Hornbills foraging on a rainy day.
We spent about 45 minutes with the three birds, observing – or at least trying to observe – what they fed on. Often the food items were engulfed too quickly for us to be able to ID them with any pretence of accuracy, but when examining the photos after the sighting, it was fascinating to see the variety of things consumed.
Have a look:
To be honest, I’ve no idea what this was. It looked fairly slimy, so my best guess is it was a squashed Giant Land Snail, but I may well be wide of the mark. The blue on the throat of the bird with the food in its beak identifies her as a female.
This was a dung beetle, or at least a scarab beetle of some kind. A lot of smaller creatures come out after the rain, so it’s a perfect time for Ground Hornbills to be on the hunt.
Another unconfirmed prey item, but it looks like it has 6 legs splayed wide as it disappears down the hornbill’s gullet, which makes it an insect. It’s some kind of large cricket or maybe even a longhorn beetle.
This was a hairy caterpillar; fairly easy to ID
A Bushveld Rain Frog, identifiable by its round shape. We saw a couple of these get eaten on this morning.
And the main item; a puff-adder. Ground hornbills are well known to catch snakes, but this was the first time I had seen them catch one as nasty as this. What was interesting is that straight after this bird caught it (he was a male) he gave it to a female. She came running in to grab it, and it may well have been some kind of courtship offering.
The best part of this sighting was not just seeing how many different creatures the hornbills incorporated into their diet, but rather the affirmation of how valuable it is spending time with things. Only though this measured approach can you truly gain a better understanding of how the animals out here go about their lives, be they elephant, lion or ground hornbill…