Must see birds of the Kruger National Park (part 2)

Ground Hornbill
The Southern Ground Hornbill is one of two species of ground hornbill and is the largest species of hornbill.   The Southern Ground Hornbill is a vulnerable species, mainly confined to national reserves and national parks. They live in groups of 5 to 10 individuals including adults and juveniles.  In captivity, a maximum lifespan of 70 years is recorded, and it is generally believed that the life expectancy of a bird that survives long enough to fledged is as high as thirty years or more.  These hornbills have one of the slowest reproductive rates in the bird kingdom, producing only one chick approximately every 9 years. They are co-operative breeders, with just one dominant breeding pair in a social group, and the rest of the birds being helpers. The ground hornbills are the only birds in the hornbill family which do not seal the entrances of their nests when eggs are laid. The nests, which are returned to every year, are created in crevices such as large holes in tree trunks, and are generally, situated a few metres off the ground. Although 2 eggs are laid in early summer, the chicks hatch between 3-14 days apart. Only one chick generally survives, with the other starving to death. For the first month of incubating her eggs, the female is fed by both her mate and the helpers. After about 4 weeks she begins to leave the nest. Juveniles are dependent on their parents for up to one year and will stay with them for several years before leaving the social group, if at all.  Visiting these nests is possible when travelling to the Greater Kruger Park region.  Really interesting to see how these nests are laid out and if you’re lucky even see some chicks.

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Secretary bird
This is such an awesome bird to see.  A relative of the hawk, the secretary bird is the only bird of prey who does more walking than flying, up to 20 miles a day. With very large, broad wings, secretary birds are also strong fliers and use thermal air currents to rise and soar. When hunting, they stamp on the ground to flush out small animals, then run in a zigzag pattern, flapping their wings to confuse their prey. Their name may refer to the crest of black-tipped feathers, thought to resemble 18th century male secretaries with quill pens in their wigs. Or the name may come from the Arabic “saqu ettair,” meaning hunter-bird, which translates into French as “secretaire.” And don’t even get me started on the hairstyle.

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Saddle Billed Stork
The Saddle-billed Stork is a large wading bird in the stork family. It is a widespread species which is a resident breeder in sub-Saharan Africa from Sudan, Ethiopia and Kenya south to South Africa, and in The Gambia, and Chad in west Africa. The saddle bill is Africa’s tallest stork, standing five feet tall, with a nine-foot wingspan. A striking bird, it has black and white plumage and a large laterally compressed bill, red at the base and tip and black in the middle. The top of the bill is covered with a yellow frontal shield, or saddle, made of soft, leathery skin. The black legs have a red garter at the tibio-tarsal joint and the feet are red. The sexes are similar, but the black-eyed male is larger than the yellow-eyed female.

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Woodlands kingfisher
The Woodland Kingfisher (Halcyon senegalensis) is a small bird with stunningly colourful plumage. It has very bright blue feathers on its back, wing panels and tail, with black shoulders and a white belly.  The Woodland Kingfishers are aggressively territorial, attacking intruders – including humans. One of my friends got chased by this small bird , pity I didn’t have my camera on hand.

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Pearl Spotted owl
Just like other nocturnal animals, birds of the night (not vampires) are just as fun to watch.  Pearl spotted owls are one of Southern Africa’s smallest owls. They are ‘earless’ owls. They have cinnamon brown heads with off-white facial disks. Their upper-parts are brown with numerous dusky rimmed white spots. Their under-parts are white streaked with brown, and their eyes are yellow.

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And I just had to add number 11 for all the Walt Disney Lion King fans!

Southern Yellow-billed hornbill –aka Zazu
This omnivorous bird has been made famous by the movie The Lion King, where it is used as a character named Zazu. As a common resident to the reserve it is not rare to see these hornbills, but every guests’ reaction to this bird is one of amazement. The huge yellow bill leaves everyone fascinated and obsessed with trying to get a photo.  Being a common resident does not mean that this bird is boring by any stretch of the imagination. It has a very wide range of diet, consisting of both invertebrates and small vertebrates. Yellow-billed hornbills will eat insects, bird chicks, frogs, chameleons, ants, termites and the list goes on.  Their breeding behaviour is also very interesting. Yellow-billed hornbills are monogamous and will live in breeding pairs or small family groups. When they begin their courtship the male will feed the female for up to a month by bringing her small bits of food in his mouth. Once they have mated, the pair will seek out a hole in a tree, usually facing north east, and will use an array of leaf litter and bark as their nesting material. When the nest is ready the female will enter the hole and close the opening with her faeces, leaving a small slit in the entrance for her devoted partner to feed her while she incubates her eggs.

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