Yellow-billed oxpecker

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Yellow-billed oxpecker
Adult in typical feeding mode
On a zebra, Senegal
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Buphagidae
Genus: Buphagus
B. africanus
Binomial name
Buphagus africanus
Linnaeus, 1766
Range of the yellow-billed oxpecker

Buphaga africana Linnaeus, 1766

The yellow-billed oxpecker (Buphagus africanus) is a passerine bird in the family Buphagidae. It was previously placed in the starling and myna family, Sturnidae.

It is native to the savannah of Sub-Saharan Africa from Senegal east to Sudan. It is least common in the extreme east of its range where it overlaps with the red-billed oxpecker, despite always dominating that species when feeding.


In 1760 the French zoologist Mathurin Jacques Brisson included a description of the yellow-billed oxpecker in his Ornithologie based on a specimen collected in Senegal. He used the French name Le pique-boeuf and the Latin Buphagus.[2] Although Brisson coined Latin names, these do not conform to the binomial system and are not recognised by the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature.[3] When in 1766 the Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus updated his Systema Naturae for the twelfth edition, he added 240 species that had been previously described by Brisson.[3] One of these was the yellow-billed oxpecker. Linnaeus included a brief description, coined the binomial name Buphaga africana and cited Brisson's work.[4] This species is placed in the genus Buphagus that was introduced by Brisson.[5]

Two subspecies are recognised:[6]

  • B. a. subsp. africanus Linnaeus, 1766 – Mauritania and Senegal to northwest Ethiopia south to northeast South Africa
  • B. a. subsp. langi Chapin, 1921 – Gabon, Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo and west Angola


The yellow-billed oxpecker nests in tree holes lined with hair plucked from livestock. It lays 2–3 eggs. Outside the breeding season it is fairly gregarious, forming large, chattering flocks. Non-breeding birds will roost on their host animals at night.

The yellow-billed oxpecker eats insects and ticks. Both the English and scientific names arise from this species' habit of perching on large wild and domesticated mammals such as cattle and eating arthropod parasites.[7] It will also perch on antelopes such as wildebeest. In a day an adult will take more than 100 engorged female Boophilus decoloratus ticks or 13,000 larvae.

However, their preferred food is blood, and while they may take ticks bloated with blood, they also feed on it directly,[8] pecking at the mammal's wounds until blood flows.[9] Whatever the net result, mammals generally tolerate oxpeckers.[8]

The yellow-billed oxpecker is 20 cm (7.9 in) long and has plain brown upperparts and head, buff underparts and a pale rump. The feet are strong. The adults' bills are yellow at the base and red at the tip, while juveniles have brown bills.[10] Its flight is strong and direct. The call is a hissy, crackling krisss, krisss.


  1. ^ BirdLife International (2018). "Buphagus africanus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2018: e.T22711005A131961159. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2018-2.RLTS.T22711005A131961159.en. Retrieved 12 November 2021.
  2. ^ Brisson, Mathurin Jacques (1760). Ornithologie, ou, Méthode contenant la division des oiseaux en ordres, sections, genres, especes & leurs variétés (in French and Latin). Vol. 2. Paris: Jean-Baptiste Bauche. pp. 437–439, Plate 42 fig 2. The two stars (**) at the start of the section indicates that Brisson based his description on the examination of a specimen.
  3. ^ a b Allen, J.A. (1910). "Collation of Brisson's genera of birds with those of Linnaeus". Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History. 28: 317–335. hdl:2246/678.
  4. ^ Linnaeus, Carl (1766). Systema naturae : per regna tria natura, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis (in Latin). Vol. 1, Part 1 (12th ed.). Holmiae (Stockholm): Laurentii Salvii. p. 154.
  5. ^ Brisson, Mathurin Jacques (1760). Ornithologie, ou, Méthode contenant la division des oiseaux en ordres, sections, genres, especes & leurs variétés (in French and Latin). Paris: Jean-Baptiste Bauche. Volume 1, p. 32; Volume 2, p. 436.
  6. ^ Gill, Frank; Donsker, David, eds. (2018). "Nuthatches, Wallcreeper, treecreepers, mockingbirds, starlings, oxpeckers". World Bird List Version 8.1. International Ornithologists' Union. Retrieved 11 May 2018.
  7. ^ Mikula, Peter; Hadrava, Jiří; Albrecht, Tomáš; Tryjanowski, Piotr (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.
  8. ^ a b Feare, Chris J. (2003). "Starlings and Mynas". In Christopher Perrins (ed.). Firefly Encyclopedia of Birds. Firefly Books. pp. 530–533. ISBN 1-55297-777-3.
  9. ^ Dr John Capinera (13 September 2011). Insects and Wildlife: Arthropods and their Relationships with Wild Vertebrate Animals. John Wiley & Sons. pp. 538–. ISBN 978-1-4443-5784-4.
  10. ^ Mclachlan, G. R.; Liversidge, R. (1978). "747 Yellow-billed Oxbecker". Roberts Birds of South Africa. Illustrated by Lighton, N. C. K.; Newman, K.; Adams, J.; Gronvöld, H (4th ed.). The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund. p. 534.

Further reading[edit]

  • Birds of The Gambia by Barlow, Wacher and Disley, ISBN 1-873403-32-1
  • Starlings and Mynas by Feare and Craig, ISBN 0-7136-3961-X
  • Zuccon, Dario; Cibois, Alice; 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): 333–44. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2006.05.007. PMID 16806992.

External links[edit]