Red-billed oxpecker

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Red-billed oxpecker
Red billed oxpecker close.jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Buphagidae/Sturnidae
Genus: Buphagus
Species: B. erythrorhynchus
Binomial name
Buphagus erythrorhynchus
Stanley, 1814
Buphagus erythrorhynchus map.svg
Range of the red-billed oxpecker

The red-billed oxpecker (Buphagus erythrorhynchus) is a passerine bird in the starling and myna family, Sturnidae; some ornithologists regard the oxpeckers to be in a family by themselves, the Buphagidae. It is native to the savannah of sub-Saharan Africa, from the Central African Republic east to South Sudan and south to northern and eastern South Africa. Its range overlaps that of the less widespread yellow-billed oxpecker.


The red-billed oxpecker nests in tree holes lined with hair plucked from livestock. It lays 2–5 eggs, with three being the average. Outside the breeding season it forms large, chattering 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 blood-engorged female Rhipicephalus (Boophilus) decoloratus ticks, or more than 12,000 larvae in a day. However, their preferred food is blood, and while they may take ticks bloated with blood, they also feed on it directly, pecking at the mammal's wounds to keep them open.

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.


  • Feare, Chris; Craig, Adrian (1999). Starlings and Mynas. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-7136-3961-X. 
  • Zuccon, Dario; Cibois, Anne; Pasquet, Eric; Ericson, Per G.P. (2006). "Nuclear and mitochondrial sequence data reveal the major lineages of starlings, mynas and related taxa". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 41 (2): 333–344. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2006.05.007. PMID 16806992. 

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