Red-billed Oxpecker.

Red-billed Oxpecker (Buphagus erythrorhynchus)

He has a brother; the yellow-billed Oxpecker, but he his a little less common.

These birds a quite common to sub Saharan Africa, specially on the east side of South Africa. Easy to spot on most of our antelope, looking for food, which is in this case blood,  and while they may take ticks bloated with blood, they also feed on it directly, pecking at the mammal’s wounds to keep them open to more parasites. They also eat insects, which isn’t surprising.

The preferred habitat is open country. Both the English and scientific names arise from this species’ habit of perching on large wild and domesticated mammals such as cattle and eating ticks. An adult will take nearly 100 engorged female Boophilus decoloratus (blue ticks), or more than 12,000 larvae in a day. (This from Wikipedia.. now I want to know who sits and counts this?)

The Red-billed Oxpecker nests in tree holes lined with hair plucked from livestock. It lays 2-5 eggs, with three being the average. Outside the breeding season it forms large, chattering flocks.

the call is a hissy crackling trik-quisss.

Tue 26-07-2011 082

Mon 25-07-2011 135

Tue 26-07-2011 084


Soft as the voice of an angel,
Breathing a lesson unheard,
Hope with a gentle persuasion
Whispers her comforting word:
Wait till the darkness is over,
Wait till the tempest is done,
Hope for the sunshine tomorrow,
After the shower is gone.



45 thoughts on “Red-billed Oxpecker.

    • I’m not so sure about this stated fact by the experts… I’ve only seen them collecting maggots from wounds… so I do take that with a pinch of salt…

    • I’ve never seen them on wounds without sitting eating all the maggots… so actually wonder about this info supplied to me… maybe they are more a helper to the wound on an animal than a hindrance…

    • Thanks Dianne… can picture some student in a related field being told ..”your thesis is to count the ticks and larvae a bird eats… now get out there and get counting..”.. LOL

  1. What an amazing little … deadhead. And his hosts don’t seem to mind his present. Love it …. and he gets a free ride too. Thanks for sharing this .. never seen something like it.

    • I think he does far more good than bad… only seen them eating maggots off a wound.. so maybe that info supplied should not be seen as too big a feature of their lives… seen Zebra actually enjoying the experience of these birds clearing their ears of the parasites that must be very itchy…

  2. Good photos Bulldog. The parasites and the Oxpecker must be very irritating for the larger animals.

  3. Oh, that is so beautiful bulldog and loved all the info and the beautiful words of Whispering Hope really completes it. Stunning photo’s once again my friend. I just love them! πŸ˜€ *big hugs*

    • Thanks Venessa… the books say they keep wounds open .. I’ve only seen them eating maggots out of wounds…
      The contrast of the B&W of the Zebra does make the bird so much more striking…

  4. Oh that 2nd shot – precious one!! So interesting – nests in tree holes lined with hair pulled from livestock -wow?! The things we learn here — it’s amazing bulldog! Fabulous photography once again ~ Love to you – Robyn

  5. Aren’t those the words to “Whispering Hope”? I don’t think I like this bird. If it would stick to eating ticks, that would be great, but to keep wounds open…. not so nice.

    • That’s correct… I must admit I’ve never seen them keeping a wound open but seen many feeding on the maggots on open wounds.. but that is what the books say.

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