Red-billed Oxpeckers

The Red-billed Oxpecker, Buphagus erythrorhynchus, is a passerine bird in the starling and myna family Sturndidae.

Distribution and Habitat

It is native to the savannah of sub-Saharan Africa, from the Central African Republic east to Sudan and south to northern and eastern South Africa.

The Red-billed Oxpecker nests in tree holes lined with hair plucked from livestock. It lays 2-5, average 3, eggs. Outside the breeding season it forms large, chattery flocks.

The preferred habitat is open country, and the Red-billed Oxpecker eats insects. 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 ticks, or more than 12,000 larvae in a day.

This oxpecker will also clean wounds, but its useful parasite control is partially negated by its tendency to keep wounds open or create new ones.

Description:

This is a medium-sized passerine, 20 cm long with strong feet. The Red-billed Oxpecker has plain brown upperparts and head, buff underparts and a pale rump. The bill is red, and adults have a yellow eyering, both clear distinctions from the related Yellow-billed Oxpecker.

Its flight is strong and direct, and the call is a hissy crackling trik-quisss.

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