Monday, July 14, 2014

Red-Billed Oxpecker

The red-billed oxpecker is a bird commonly found attached to large short-haired mammals where its feeds on ticks, flies and other insects found on mammals. 
Red-billed oxpecker on back of bushbuck in Mount Kenya NR. Photo by John Mirau.
Red-billed oxpecker on cape buffalo at Nakuru NP. Photo by Steven Shuel.
They will eat up to 100 blood-gorged ticks or 1,200 tick larvae in a day. One oxpecker stomach contained 250 adult ticks and 1,400 larval ticks. The red-billed oxpecker prefers blood, and in addition to blood-gorged ticks, will feed on blood directly from a wounded mammal. They will also eat grasshoppers and other large insects kicked up by mammals and will catch and eat flying termites on the wing. 

It has a bright red bill and red eyes surrounded by a yellow eye ring. The back, wings, rump and tail are ashy/brown and it has a buff belly. They have sharp claws and stiff tail feathers that helps them to crawl all over a mammal. 
Closer view of the oxpeckers on the cape buffalo above.
They are found in East Africa, from Eritrea in the north to eastern South Africa in the south. We saw quite a few of them, but they tended to blend in with the mammals. I noticed them more going through photos.
This red-billed oxpecker is on the back of a defassa waterbuck in Nakuru NP. Photo by John Mirau. 


  1. Vampire birds? Kind of creepy.

  2. A cute little bird with an icky (though useful) diet.

    1. The animals don't seem to mind the birds. The birds are actually doing them a favor. A mutually beneficial relationship.