Thursday, October 27, 2011


B. africanus
There are two species of Oxpecker, the appropriately named Red-Billed (B. erythrorhynchus) and Yellow-Billed (B. africanus). Both are found throughout the open habitats of Sub-Saharan Africa, though the Red-Billed tends to live more on the eastern half of the Continent.

Oxpeckers are named after their primary activity- pecking parasites and dead skin off of various hoofed mammals. Buffalo, Rhinos, Impalas, Giraffes, and an several other species are living buffets for these colorful beaked birds. Domesticated livestock also benefit from the relationship.
B. erythrorhynchus on a Giraffe

Oxpeckers are astounding because they can eat as many as 400 adult ticks in a single day, and up to 150,000 in a year! They can also consume tens of thousands of larvae over the course of the day as well! Their large beaks allow them to eat bigger parasites, and to curb the spread of parasite-borne illnesses. The birds are even being reintroduced to areas where they were once locally extinct, because of the positive effects they can have on keeping things like Heartwater Disease away.

Both species of Oxpecker are gregarious, and they typically breed during the  rainy season. Nests are built in tree cavities and lined with vegetation. 2-5 eggs are laid at a time.

IUCN Status : Least Concern
Location : Sub-Saharan Africa
Size : Length up to 8in (21cm)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Aves -- Order : Passeriformes
Family : Buphagidae -- Genus : Buphagus

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