Seasonal changes in movement and habitat use by Southern Ground- Hornbills in the South African lowveld §
Southern Ground-Hornbills Bucorvus leadbeateri are Endangered in South Africa and there is a concerted effort to reverse their population decline. They live in groups year round, with only the alpha pair breeding, raising at most one chick per year. Each group has a home range of 50–100 km2, but there are few data for their spatial habitat use within this range. Understanding the factors affecting Southern Ground-Hornbill movement patterns is useful to assess habitat management options for the species, to select sites for artificial nests and to identify suitable areas for reintroduction initiatives. We report daily and seasonal patterns of habitat use by four groups in the Associated Private Nature Reserves, north-east South Africa, based on data from GPS-satellite tags. Daily travel distances averaged 7.4 ± 2.2 km d−1 but were greater during the breeding season, although birds were constrained to forage close to their nest, and were lower in winter, when birds ranged more widely. Hourly travel distances were affected by time of day, season, temperature and group. Birds travelled farthest per hour in the morning, decreasing in the afternoon in winter. However, in summer hourly travel distances were bimodally distributed, with a minimum during the middle of the day when ambient temperatures exceed 25 °C. Acacia-dominated vegetation and riparian habitats were favoured disproportionately during the heat of the day in summer, presumably because they offer more shade than other habitats. Optimal habitat configurations for ground-hornbills include a mosaic of habitat types, including open areas for foraging and dense trees for shade.
Keywords: Bucorvus leadbeateri, habitat use, movement patterns, Southern Ground-Hornbill