Oxpecker Facts

Oxpecker Facts
Oxpeker is a bird that belongs to the family Buphagidae. There are two species of oxpecker: red-billed and yellow-billed oxpecker. They can be found only in the Sub-Saharan Africa (endemic species for Sub-Saharan Africa). Oxpecker inhabits open savannas, grassy plains and areas with scattered shrubs. These animals were nearly extinct in the wild at the beginning of the 20th century due to excessive hunt of buffalos and rhinos (which are their main hosts) and arsenic poisoning. After several years of breeding in captivity, oxpeckers were returned to the wild. They are listed as vulnerable species today.
Interesting Oxpecker Facts:
Oxpecker can reach 8 to 9 inches in length and 1.75 ounces of weight.
Oxpecker is covered with light brown plumage. Two subspecies of oxpecker differ in size, shape and color of the bill (yellow or red).
Oxpeckers have broad bills. They have short feet with three toes facing forward and one toe oriented backwards. Oxpeckers have sharp claws. Tail feathers are long and stiff.
Oxpeckers feed on ticks, flies, lice and worms that can be extracted from the fur of domestic cattle, buffalos, rhinos, giraffes and large antelopes. They produce either scissoring or pecking motion to collect the food from the fur.
Red-billed oxpecker uses scissoring motion to extract insects tangled in the long hairs (from the manes of giraffes, for example).
Yellow-billed oxpecker uses pecking motion to grab insects from the fur of short-haired animals such as buffalo and rhino.
Despite removing ticks and other pests from the fur, oxpeckers are known as parasites because the feed on the blood of their hosts also. When oxpeckers suck blood, they produce wounds that will be infected with new parasites. Those wounds heal slowly.
Oxpeckers also eat ear wax. Scientists believe that oxpeckers use bacteria from the ear wax to facilitate digestion.
Oxpeckers can be beneficial for their hosts because they produce alarm calls when they identify predators.
Some animals such as elephant, waterbuck and hartebeest do not tolerate oxpeckers.
Oxpeckers are gregarious birds which use whistles and chattering sounds for communication.
Oxpeckers mate from September to February, during the rainy season. Courtship and mating takes place on the backs of their hosts.
Female lays from 2 to 3 eggs in the nest located in the hollow tree or in the rock crevices. Nests are lined with grass and hairs removed from the fur of their hosts. Both parents take care of the eggs. Few birds from the previous brood usually assist in rearing of chicks.
Incubation period lasts 12 to 13 days. Chicks stay in the nest during the first 30 days of their life. Young birds depend on the food provided by their parents during the first 4 months. After 8 months young birds attain coloration of adult birds.
Lifespan of oxpecker is unknown.

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