Ground hornbill

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Ground hornbill
Temporal range: Middle Miocene to present
Bucorvus abyssinicus Wytsman.jpg
Head of the male Abyssinian
ground hornbill
(B. abyssinicus)
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Bucerotiformes
Family: Bucorvidae
Bonaparte, 1854
Genus: Bucorvus
Lesson, 1830

Bucorvus leadbeateri
Bucorvus abyssinicus
See text for the possible inclusion of Bycanistes

The ground hornbills (Bucorvidae) are a family of the order Bucerotiformes, with a single genus Bucorvus and two extant species. The family is endemic to sub-Saharan Africa: the Abyssinian ground hornbill occurs in a belt from Senegal east to Ethiopia, and the southern ground hornbill occurs in southern and East Africa.

Ground hornbills are large, with adults around a metre tall. Both species are ground-dwelling, unlike other hornbills. Also unlike most other hornbills, they are carnivorous and feed on insects, snakes, other birds, amphibians and even tortoises.[1] They are among the longest-lived of all birds,[2] and the larger southern species is possibly the slowest-breeding (triennially) and longest-lived of all birds.[3]


The genus Bucorvus was introduced, originally as a subgenus, by the French naturalist René Lesson in 1830 with the Abyssinian ground hornbill Bucorvus abyssinicus as the type species.[4][5] The generic name is derived from the name of the genus Buceros introduced by Carl Linnaeus in 1758 for the Asian hornbills where corvus is the Latin word for a "raven".[6]

A molecular phylogenetic study published in 2013 found that the genus Bucorvus was sister to the rest of the hornbills.[7]

The genus Bucorvus contains two species:[8]

Image Scientific name Common Name Distribution
Dzioborozec abisynski Bucorvus abyssinicus RB1.jpg Bucorvus abyssinicus Abyssinian ground hornbill (also known as northern ground hornbill) southern Mauritania, Senegal and Guinea east to Eritrea, Ethiopia, north western Somalia, north western Kenya and Uganda
Southern Ground Hornbill (Bucorvus leadbeateri) male (12714625605), crop.jpg Bucorvus leadbeateri Southern ground hornbill northern Namibia and Angola to northern South Africa and southern Zimbabwe to Burundi and Kenya

A prehistoric ground hornbill, Bucorvus brailloni, has been described from fossil bones in Morocco, suggesting that prior to Quaternary glaciations the genus was either much more widespread or differently distributed.[9]

It is currently thought that the ground hornbills, along with Tockus and Tropicranus, are almost exclusively carnivorous[1] and lack the gular pouch that allows other, less closely related hornbill genera to store fruit.


  1. ^ a b Kinnaird Margaret F. and O‘Brien< Timothy G.; The Ecology and Conservation of Asian Hornbills: Farmers of the Forest; pp. 20-23. ISBN 0226437124
  2. ^ Wasser, D. E. and Sherman, P.W.; “Avian longevities and their interpretation under evolutionary theories of senescence” in Journal of Zoology 2 November 2009
  3. ^ Skutch; Alexander Frank (author) and Gardner, Dana (illustrator) Helpers at birds' nests : a worldwide survey of cooperative breeding and related behavior pp. 69-71. Published 1987 by University of Iowa Press. ISBN 0877451508
  4. ^ Lesson, René (1830). Traité d'Ornithologie, ou Tableau Méthodique (in French). Vol. 1. Paris: F.G. Levrault. p. 256 (livre 4).
  5. ^ Peters, James Lee, ed. (1945). Check-list of Birds of the World. Vol. 5. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. p. 272.
  6. ^ Jobling, James A. (2010). The Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names. London: Christopher Helm. p. 80. ISBN 978-1-4081-2501-4.
  7. ^ Gonzalez, J.-C.T.; Sheldon, B.C.; Collar, N.J.; Tobias, J.A. (2013). "A comprehensive molecular phylogeny for the hornbills (Aves: Bucerotidae)". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 67 (2): 468–483. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2013.02.012. PMID 23438388.
  8. ^ Gill, Frank; Donsker, David, eds. (2019). "Mousebirds, Cuckoo Roller, trogons, hoopoes, hornbills". World Bird List Version 9.2. International Ornithologists' Union. Retrieved 23 July 2019.
  9. ^ Kemp, A. C. 1995 The Hornbills. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

External links[edit]