About the Author

Matt Rochford

Ranger

Growing up in the small coastal town of Mtunzini afforded Matt a childhood of endless adventures and the freedom to explore the rich diversity of animal and plant life in the area. He thus developed his passion for wildlife at a young age. ...

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25 Comments

on Thunder Bird brings the Rain

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William Paynter
Digital Tracker

Matt, thank you for sharing your knowledge of the Hornbill species. The southern ground hornbill family is very unique. Thunderbird seems to be a name which comes from the history of the native populations over the millennia .

Matt Rochford
Ranger

Thanks William, and only a pleasure! They are incredibly special birds indeed. They do have a few other names but thunderbird suites them best I think!

Christa Blessing
Master Tracker

I love these ground hornbills. They are really very special birds.
Thanks for the beautiful pictures and the good article of and on them.

Matt Rochford
Ranger

Thanks a lot Christa, I really appreciate that! Glad you enjoyed it.

Irene Henkes
Digital Tracker

Thank you Matt! These birds are indeed iconic. I notice the middle one in the pic with the three birds has spots on the wattle. Any idea what that might be?

Matt Rochford
Ranger

Hey there Irene! That is a female and those spots are simply a bit of the blue colouration that the females have on their bare throat skin. The extent of the blue is quite variable – sometimes even males will have small blue spots on their throat.

Irene Henkes
Digital Tracker

OK! Never knew that, thank you!

Marcia Parker
Digital Tracker

Interesting post with great photos. I was especially surprised to learn about the size of these birds!

Matt Rochford
Ranger

Hi Marcia, yes they are very large. They are formidable predators to anything smaller than themselves!

Valmai Vorster
Master Tracker

Hi Matt, these birds are huge in stature and have a deep call. We have seen them a few times in the Kruger Park walking and forreging. Now looking properly at their bill and the red wattle, makes perfect sense how the call vibrates. Beautiful pic of the elephants grazing in the background with the impala in the front. Almost looks peaceful, and at the same time buzy.

Matt Rochford
Ranger

Hi Valmai, it’s certainly very interesting how they are able to reach that deep tone. Next time you spot them, maybe they’ll call and you can see the bill and wattle in action!

Linda Rawles
Digital Tracker

This is lovely, Matt. Thunder and hornbills: two of my favorite beings:-)

Matt Rochford
Ranger

Thanks a lot Linda, I love them both too! 🙂

Suzanne Gibson
Guest contributor

Thank you Matt, I shall certainly listen for that call when we’re back at Founders in 2 weeks (all being well). Say hello to Terrence for me, and ask him if he knows he’s on my blog photo!

Matt Rochford
Ranger

That’s so great to hear Suzanne. That’s a lovely picture of you 3. I’m sure Terrence will remember the day. Glad that all went well and that you made it here 🙂 see you out in the bush!

Barbara Wallace
Senior Digital Ranger

What a marvellous bird! Thank you for this very interesting blog, Matt.

Matt Rochford
Ranger

Thanks so much for the kind words Barbara!

Cindy Reich
Explorer

That is really interesting, as many indigenous tribes in the US also attribute rain to the Thunderbird, however it is a mythical figure in these cultures as opposed to the ground hornbill. I absolutely love the ground hornbill–they are one the most interesting birds in all of Africa!

Cally Staniland
Master Tracker

Great blog Matt! Have to say I have always been very fond of the comical Hornbill and their stunningly long eye lashes 😊. However I have never heard their boom so hope that when I next visit the Lowveld I might be lucky enough to pick their breeding season and hear it for real. Love the name and the story behind it, given to them by an African tribe. Very apt indeed 💕

Denise Vouri
Guest contributor

Fascinating post with great photos. I’ve seen these birds but now it will be with newly learned interest.

Michael and Terri Klauber
Guest contributor

Matt, Thanks for the information on the the Thunder Birds! We have never heard them on our game drives, but will try to find them on our next visit to Londolozi!

Patrick Smyth
Explorer

Hey Matt! Good to hear from you. I’m just catching up with all the blogs. These birds are one of my favorite, as well. We saw them at least 3 times when I visited. Please give my best to Terence. How was your vacation? I really enjoyed Malelane! I stayed in wonderful place and met some really great people. I am looking at moving to South Africa. I finally saw a male lion on my 2nd to last morning. I did a bushwalk with the people who hosted me at the Airbnb. We went in Kruger. I kept a video of it.
I got to play golf at Leopard Creek. It’s the most beautiful course I’ve ever had the pleasure to play on. The tournament I wanted to see was cancelled duet to overreaction to Omicron. I didn’t run home like the rest of the tourists. So, when I did leave, I had plenty of room on my planes. Relaxing was easy.
So, I left my home in Maryland, which is on the east coast of the USA, and I now live in California. everyone knows where that is? I really enjoyed my time with you and Terence. I’ve stayed in touch with Graham and Elena. I have lost the number for Brian. If you guys have it, I’d appreciate if you would send it.
I left Africa with 134 bird species. When I return, I’ll join a group and find out more about them. It’s very difficult to get used to the many more varieties that exist there, as opposed to here. I downloaded the Roberts app to help me, but the books are better. I think the one they had at Malelane is Kerns (sp?).
Anyway, stay well and you can contact me at pjsmyther2@gmail.com. I’ll let you know when I plan to return to RSA. You and Terence stay well and keep enjoying your work!

Matt Rochford
Ranger

Hey there Pat! Great to hear from you. Sounds like you had an amazing time in SA. Big news about wanting to move this side – that’s exciting to have on the cards for the future! Terrence and I had a great time with you and would love to have you back on board with us. I’ll get in touch with you via email Pat. Keep well and take care of yourself.

Paul Canales
Master Tracker

This hornbill is my favorite, and thanks for the added information Matt!

Matt Rochford
Ranger

It’s a pleasure Paul! Glad you found it interesting.

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