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The Wildebeest's guide to South Africa

Red-billed Oxpecker

Afrikaans name: Rooibekrenostervoël

A Red-billed Oxpeckers on the back of a zebra in Hluhluwe Game Reserve. It has fresh dung in its bill which will presumably be used as nesting material.

Photo © Steven Herbert

Buphagus erythrorhynchus

Oxpeckers are part of the Starling family.

Male and female look the same. Juveniles have a black bill and lack the yellow ring around the eye.

Red-billed Oxpeckers nest in cavities in trees where between 2 and 5 eggs are laid.

Oxpeckers feed mainly on ticks and blood. While it would seem that it is beneficial to the mammal to have ticks taken off it, the Oxpeckers do have a habit of keeping wounds open.

These birds are found in woodland and savanna.

The Red-billed Oxpecker is a common sight in game reserves like Kruger National Park. They can be seen clambering around the backs, necks, heads and butts of larger mammals such as Burchell's Zebras, Giraffes and Impala. They are also found on cattle in some farming areas.

Two species of Oxpecker are found in South Africa and they are similar in looks. The Red-billed Oxpecker is far more common than the Yellow-billed Oxpecker. The Red-billed Oxpecker has yellow round its eye and a completely red bill.

A group of Red-billed Oxpeckers on the back of a Kudu in Kruger National Park

Photo © Steven Herbert


References and further reading

A First Guide to South African Birds - 7th Edition - Author: Leonard Gill - Year Published: 1975 - Page: 42

Animals of the Kruger National Park - Author: G. de Graaff - Year Published: 1987 - Page: 108

Collins Illustrated Checklist - Birds of Southern Africa - 1st edition - Author: Ber van Perlo - Year Published: 1999 - Page: 75

Field Guide to the Birds of Kruger National Park - Author: Ian Sinclair and Ian Whyte - Year Published: 1991 - Page: 196

Reader's Digest Illustrated Guide to the Game Parks and Nature Reserves of Southern Africa - 2nd edi - Author: Editor - Alan Duggan - Year Published: 1991 - Page: 413

Roberts' Birds of Southern Africa - 5th Edition - Author: Gordon Lindsay Maclean - Year Published: 1985 - Page: 680

Roberts' Birds of Southern Africa - 6th Edition - Author: Gordon Lindsay Maclean - Year Published: 1993 - Page: 678

Sasol Birds of Southern Africa - 4th Edition - Author: Ian Sinclair et al. - Year Published: 2011 - Page: 404

List of South African Birds

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