Southern ground hornbill nestling born at the Moscow Zoo

Southern ground hornbill nestling born at the Moscow Zoo
This is the first offspring of the couple of hornbills that have been living at the Moscow Zoo for 20 years.

The first nestling of a southern ground hornbill has been born at the Moscow Zoo. Visitors will be able to see the nestling at the House of Birds pavilion situated on the old territory of the zoo.

“We have been waiting for the birth of the southern ground hornbill’s off-spring for a long time. Its parents have been living at the zoo for 20 years, but they never had offspring before,” the Moscow Zoo press service reports.

The southern ground hornbill is the largest species of hornbill. These birds got their name due to the large crooked bill that they have. Adult females weigh up to 4 kilos, while males weigh up to six kilos. The length of the bird can be as much as 120 centimetres. Southern ground hornbills can only be found in Africa, south of the equator. Local tribes believe this bird to be sacred. Africans believe that it can predict the arrival of the rainy season. It is believed that the southern ground hornbill’s loud call, which sounds similar to that of a lion roaring, can predict a  change in the weather. This call can be heard at a distance of up to five km. The southern ground hornbill’s appearance is colourful as well as memorable. The bird’s feathers are black, which makes the patches of red skin around the eyes plus the throat stand out. Its strong beak can toss up prey that weighs over three kilos.

The southern ground hornbill is on the IUCN Red List as a vulnerable species. In captivity, when taken good care of, this bird lives over 60 years, but breeds very rarely. Southern ground hornbills are very sensitive to external factors, the Moscow Zoo press service added. This is why the zoo workers immediately took the long-awaited egg to an incubator.

Currently the nestling lives separately from its parents. Once the bird grows up a bit, it will be put in an aviary with the adult birds. Its colouration is not yet bright. The feathers plus patches of skin around the eyes are now brown. The bird will get its black and red colours when it is between four and six years old. The little vulture’s menu consists of the same items as its parents’ menu. The adult birds are fed in the morning and the evening. For breakfast they have mice and quails that the zoo workers hide on the aviary’s territory: in hollowed out parts of trees, under rocks as well as between branches of trees. Making the birds look for their food is intended to keep them busy. For lunch the birds have insects (placed in a plastic bottle) or nuts.

The southern ground hornbill is believed to be one of the smartest and cleverest birds at the Moscow Zoo. These birds always find different objects in the aviary to show each other. For example, if one bird finds a bright pebble, it will take it to show to the other. The birds share food, too.

The southern ground hornbills are the only true vultures among hornbills. In the wild, they mostly feed on grasshoppers, beetles plus scorpions, but they can also catch rodents, squirrels or young hares. During the dry season, they can also feed on frogs, lizards and snakes. Sometimes they eat fruit and seeds. These birds spend most of their time on the ground, walking around the savannah. The southern ground hornbills live in small groups that includes from two to eleven birds.

There has been a baby boom at the Moscow Zoo lately. Just recently, a slender bamboo shark cub was born for the first time. Visitors can see the cub and its parents in the Exotarium pavilion on the new territory of the park. The zoo’s visitors will also be able to get a glimpse of a baby Asian elephant at the Elephants pavilion on the old territory of the zoo. There are also new European lynx cubs living in the cat’s row of the Moscow Zoo. A sable antelope calf can now be found at the Animals of Africa pavilion, while a baby alpaca can be found in the zoo’s ungulates row.