Global Warming Threatens Africa’s Southern Yellow-Billed Hornbill

(Bloomberg) -- A sustained increase in global temperatures could see the southern yellow-billed hornbill disappear from parts of the Kalahari Desert in Southern Africa by 2027, according to a study led by the University of Cape Town.

The bird is best known for its unusual breeding and nesting habits where the female seals herself in a cavity and stays there for about 50 days to brood and care for chicks. The creature is also closely related to the red-billed hornbill, upon which the character of Zazu in the movie “The Lion King” was based.

Southern yellow-billed hornbills struggle to breed above certain temperatures as they face greater difficulty in foraging and lose weight. A comparison of two three-year periods, between 2008 and 2011 and 2016 and 2019, showed that the number of occupied nest boxes at a site in the Kuruman River Reserve in South Africa fell to 12% from 52%, the researchers said. The average number of chicks per breeding attempt declined to 0.4 from 1.1.