The southern ground-hornbill is long-lived, reaching 50 or even 60 years old (4). It has a varied diet, mainly consisting of arthropods found on the ground. During the dry season, amphibians and lizards are also eaten, and larger species including snakes, hares and tortoises have also been recorded in its diet (5). The southern ground-hornbill also occasionally eats carrion, fruit and seeds (5), and will groom common warthogs for parasites which it then consumes (7).
Mating in the southern ground-hornbill occurs between September and December, and two eggs are usually laid in tree or cliff hollows (5). The first egg is laid three to five days before the second and the first chick invariably outcompetes its younger sibling (4). As only one chick usually survives to fledge the reproductive rate of this species is therefore fairly slow. One study in South Africa suggested that a family group only produce an average of one fledgling every nine years, although in other areas they may breed more frequently (5).
The eggs of the southern ground-hornbill hatch after an incubation period of about 40 days. The young fledge at around 85 days old, but are dependent on the adults for several more months (6).
The southern ground-hornbill sometimes lives as a single breeding pair, but more commonly in a co-operative breeding group in which the dominant breeding pair is assisted by other members of the group (4). Groups contain around 2 to 11 individuals, and defend a territory of up to 100 square kilometres (4) using duets or choruses of calls (6).