Red-billed oxpecker

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Red-billed oxpecker
Buphagus erythrorhynchus00.jpg
Adult at nest entrance
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Buphagidae
Genus: Buphagus
B. erythrorynchus
Binomial name
Buphagus erythrorynchus
Stanley, 1814
Buphagus erythrorhynchus map.svg

Buphagus erythrorhynchus

The red-billed oxpecker (Buphagus erythrorynchus) is a passerine bird in the oxpecker family, 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 is a native of the savanna of sub-Saharan Africa. It ranges across Ethiopia and Somalia through Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, and Zambia to southern Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, southern Mozambique, and north-eastern South Africa.[2]


A juvenile oxpecker is darker brown than its parents. Its bill is dark olive at first, but gradually takes on adult colouration after four months.[3] Its flight is strong and direct, and their call is a hissy crackling trik-quisss.[4]


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.[5] This species's relationship with rhinos gives the Swahili name Askari wa kifaru meaning "the rhino's guard".[6]

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.

Field observations in rhinos have shown oxpeckers warning the nearsighted rhino of danger.[7]


  1. ^ BirdLife International (2018). "Buphagus erythrorynchus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2018: e.T22711009A131961538. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2018-2.RLTS.T22711009A131961538.en. Retrieved 16 March 2022.
  2. ^ "Buphagus erythrorhynchus (Red-billed oxpecker)".
  3. ^ "Oxpeckers (Birds)".
  4. ^ "Red-billed Oxpeckers – Beauty of Birds". 16 September 2021.
  5. ^ Mikula P, Hadrava J, Albrecht T, Tryjanowski P. (2018). "Large-scale assessment of commensalistic–mutualistic associations between African birds and herbivorous mammals using internet photos". PeerJ. 6: e4520. doi:10.7717/peerj.4520. PMC 5863707. PMID 29576981.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  6. ^ Shoot, Britta (10 June 2020). "These Birds Protect Black Rhinos From Poachers (but Also Drink Their Blood)". Audubon. Retrieved 6 April 2022.
  7. ^ Plotz, Roan D.; Linklater, Wayne L. (2020). "Oxpeckers Help Rhinos Evade Humans" (PDF). Current Biology. 30 (10): 1965–1969.e2. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2020.03.015. PMID 32275876.

Further reading[edit]

  • 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.

External links[edit]