Southern Ground-Hornbill awarded Bird of the Year

Posted 8 October 2020 by under Announcements & Notices • Journal: Ostrich: Journal of African Ornithology
Southern Ground-Hornbill awarded Bird of the Year

The Southern Ground-Hornbill Bucorvus leadbeateri is considered Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List and has been announced the Bird of the Year for 2020. Not only is this bird featured on the cover of Volume 91, Issue 3 of Ostrich, but a Short Note on the observations of the Southern Ground-Hornbill in the Kafue National Park, Zambia, is included in the issue.

Kafue National Park is one of the largest protected areas in Africa and Zambia’s largest national park at 22 480 km2. While research has focused almost exclusively on the South African population at the southern limit of the species' range, this paper looks at the distribution of the Zambia's population and focusses on the population's demography. 

From February to September 2017, ground-hornbill sightings were recorded in Kafue National Park in western Zambia to describe population demography. From 49 uniquely identified groups, the mean group size was 3.8 (SE: 0.19, range 1–7), of which 41% included birds less than four years old. Although these observations are quantitatively limited, they provide the first information on group size and composition in the country, as well as an indication of high densities and reproductive output relative to the well-studied peripheral population in South Africa.

During the study period, 121 ground-hornbill sightings were recorded, primarily along roadways in northern Kafue National Park and the adjacent game management area. Forty-nine unique groups were identified from 84 sightings, totalling 186 individual ground hornbills. The authors of this Short Note present their findings from the first observations of ground-hornbill demographics in Zambia which is the first step in filling knowledge gaps outside South Africa.

Although this study sheds light on ground-hornbill demography in Zambia’s largest protected area, there is still much to learn about the species across its Zambian range, especially to substantiate anecdotal evidence of declines. Based on the high number and density of ground-hornbills observed in Kafue, a standardised road survey on the park’s main roads would serve to support or enhance the findings herein and provide a population estimate for the park, which probably holds a significant portion of the region’s population given the expansive habitat. 

It is believed that long-term monitoring efforts like those in South Africa will help contribute to a more holistic understanding of global ground-hornbill population dynamics, which should improve a global status assessment. The Short Note is available to read at no cost until the end of November here

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