Yellow-billed Oxpecker

Buphagus africanus

Inhabiting savannas and open woodlands, most often near a reliable water source, Yellow-billed Oxpeckers are reliant on populations of large game (mainly buffalo, giraffe, black and white rhinos, hippos and large antelope) and untreated livestock from which they can glean the ticks and other ectoparasites on which they subsist. They will also feed on blood dripping from open wounds on their hosts, often hampering their healing and recovery.

Adult Yellow-billed Oxpeckers measure around 20cm in length, with a weight of about 60g. Pairs are monogamous and breed in holes in trees during spring and summer, raising clutches of 2-3 chicks, often with the help of immature birds from previous broods.

Exterminated from South Africa as a result of the rinderpest epidemic of the 1890’s, Yellow-billed Oxpeckers naturally recolonized the Kruger National Park from Zimbabwe only in the 1970’s. They were also introduced to Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park in northern Kwazulu-Natal in the 1980’s but as they’re not being seen there any more this was probably not successful. Today they are still classified as Vulnerable in South Africa and the Lowveld remains the only reliable place to see the Yellow-billed Oxpecker in our country, though the IUCN lists the species as being of Least Concern overall, indicating a patchy distribution that spans much of southern, eastern, central and western Africa.

 

 

25 thoughts on “Yellow-billed Oxpecker

    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      Thanks, Sylvia! And that’s exactly the reason why we shouldn’t mess with ecosystems to the extent we do – we might wipe out something that’s essential to our own survival without us even knowing about it.

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  1. Joanne Sisco

    wow – those colourful bills are quite spectacular, however their tendency to drink the blood from dripping wounds gave me pause. It wouldn’t be so bad if it actually helped the poor animal heal. “Vampire” birds might have been a better description!

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  2. perdebytjie

    So skaars soos hoendertande! Ek onthou daar was ‘n jong man wat destyds dit sy missie gemaak het om hierdie voëls te bewaar. Hy is tragies oorlede in ‘n vliegongeluk. Ek kan nie meer sy naam onthou nie.
    Pragtige foto’s, Dries!

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  3. Anne

    It is pleasing to note that the re-introduction of these birds in the Eastern Cape appears to have been successful. We have not only seen them in the Addo Elephant National Park but on the outskirts of our town too.

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    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      It’s good that they’re making a comeback, Anne, but I think the birds relocated to the Eastern Cape’s Addo and Mountain Zebra National Parks would be of the red-billed species.

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