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.