The oxpeckers are two species of bird which make up the family Buphagidae. The oxpeckers were formerly usually treated as a subfamily, Buphaginae, within the starling family, Sturnidae, but molecular phylogenetic studies have consistently shown that they form a separate lineage that is basal to the sister clades containing the Sturnidae and the Mimidae (mockingbirds, thrashers, and allies). Oxpeckers are endemic to the savanna of Sub-Saharan Africa. Both the English and scientific names arise from their habit of perching on large mammals (both wild and domesticated) such as cattle, zebras, impalas, hippopotamuses, or rhinoceroses, and giraffes, eating ticks, small insects, botfly larvae, and other parasites. The behaviour of oxpeckers towards large mammals was previously thought to be an example of mutualism, though recent research suggests the relationship is parasitic in nature.[1]

Yellow-billed oxpeckers (Buphagus africanus africanus) on zebra
Yellow-billed oxpeckers
Buphagus africanus africanus
on a zebra in Senegal
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Buphagidae
Lesson, 1828
Genus: Buphagus
Brisson, 1760

Buphagus africanus
Buphagus erythrorhynchus

Red-billed oxpecker (Buphagus erythrorhynchus) on impala (Aepyceros melampus)
Buphagus erythrorhynchus on an impala


The genus Buphagus was introduced in 1760 by the French zoologist Mathurin Jacques Brisson with the yellow-billed oxpecker as the type species.[2] The name combines the Ancient Greek words bous "ox" and -phagos "eating".[3]

According to the more recent studies of Muscicapoidea phylogeny, the oxpeckers are an ancient line related to Mimidae (mockingbirds and thrashers) and starlings but not particularly close to either.[4][5][6] Considering the known biogeography of these groups, the most plausible explanation seems that the oxpecker lineage originated in Eastern or Southeastern Asia like the other two.[5] This would make the two species of Buphagus something like living fossils, and demonstrates that such remnants of past evolution can possess striking and unique autapomorphic adaptations.

The genus contains two species:[7]

Image Name Common name Distribution
Yellow-billed oxpeckers (Buphagus africanus africanus) on zebra Buphagus africanus Yellow-billed oxpecker most of sub-Saharan Africa
Red-billed oxpeckers (Buphagus africanus) adult (L) sub-adult (R) on impala Buphagus erythrorynchus Red-billed oxpecker mainly east Africa

Distribution and habitat

The oxpeckers are endemic to sub-Saharan Africa, where they occur in most open habitats. They are absent from the driest deserts and the rainforests. Their distribution is restricted by the presence of their preferred prey, specific species of ticks, and the animal hosts of those ticks. The two species of oxpecker are sympatric over much of East Africa and may even occur on the same host animal. The nature of the interactions between the two species is unknown.


Yellow-billed Oxpecker (Buphagus africanus), Masi Mara
Yellow-billed oxpecker on a wildebeest

Oxpeckers are fairly gregarious.

Diet and feeding

Oxpeckers graze exclusively on the bodies of large mammals. Certain species are seemingly preferred, whereas others, like the Lichtenstein's hartebeest or topi are generally avoided. Smaller antelope such as lechwe, duikers and reedbuck are also avoided; the smallest regularly used species is the impala, probably because of the heavy tick load and social nature of that species. In many parts of their range they now feed on cattle, but avoid camels. They feed on ectoparasites, particularly ticks, as well as insects infesting wounds and the flesh and blood of some wounds as well. They are sometimes classified as parasites, because they open wounds on the animals' backs.[8]

Oxpecker/mammal interactions are the subject of some debate and ongoing research.[9] They were originally thought to be an example of mutualism, but recent evidence suggests that oxpeckers may be parasites instead.[10] Oxpeckers do eat ticks, but often the ticks have already fed on the ungulate host and no statistically significant link has been shown between oxpecker presence and reduced ectoparasite load.[10] Oxpeckers have been observed to open new wounds and enhance existing ones in order to drink the blood of their perches.[11] Oxpeckers also feed on the earwax and dandruff of mammals; less is known about the possible benefits of this to the mammal, but it is suspected that this is also a parasitic behaviour, however, they do not harm the mammals that they reside on since they feed on little parasites. [10] Some Oxpeckers hosts are intolerant of their presence.[11] Elephants and some antelope will actively dislodge the oxpeckers when they land. Other species tolerate oxpeckers while they search for ticks on the face, which one author says "appears ... to be an uncomfortable and invasive process.[8]


Red-billed Oxpecker Eggs JM
Clutch of red-billed oxpeckers in a nest lined with impala hair, Kenya

The breeding season of the oxpeckers, in at least one location, is linked to the rainy season, which affects the activity of their mammalian hosts and the tick loads of those hosts. Both courtship and copulation occur on their hosts as well. They nest in holes, usually in trees but sometimes in other types of cavity, including holes in walls. The nests are lined with grasses and often with hair plucked from their hosts and even livestock such as sheep which are not usually used. The typical clutch is between two and three eggs, but the red-billed oxpecker may lay up to five eggs.


  1. ^ Eschner, Kat. "Those Little Birds On The Backs Of Rhinos Actually Drink Blood". Smithsonian. Retrieved 2019-03-09.
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ Jobling, J.A. (2018). del Hoyo, J.; Elliott, A.; Sargatal, J.; Christie, D.A.; de Juana, E. (eds.). "Key to Scientific Names in Ornithology". Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions. Retrieved 11 May 2018.
  4. ^ Cibois, A.; Cracraft, J. (2004). "Assessing the passerine 'tapestry': phylogenetic relationships of the Muscicapoidea inferred from nuclear DNA sequences". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 32 (1): 264–273. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2003.12.002.
  5. ^ a b 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.
  6. ^ Lovette, I.J.; Rubenstein, D.R. (2007). "A comprehensive molecular phylogeny of the starlings (Aves: Sturnidae) and mockingbirds (Aves: Mimidae): congruent mtDNA and nuclear trees for a cosmopolitan avian radiation". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 44: 1031‐1056.
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ a b Craig, Adrian (2009). "Family Buphagidae (Oxpeckers)". In del Hoyo, Josep; Elliott, Andrew; Christie, David (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 14, Bush-shrikes to Old World Sparrows. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions. pp. 642–653. ISBN 978-84-96553-50-7.
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ a b c Weeks, P. (2000). "Red-billed oxpeckers: vampires or tickbirds?". Behavioral Ecology. 11 (2): 154–160. doi:10.1093/beheco/11.2.154.
  11. ^ a b McElligott, A.G.; Maggini, I.; Hunziker, L.; Konig, B. (2004). "Interactions between red-billed oxpeckers and black rhinos in captivity". Zoo Biology. 23 (4): 347–354. doi:10.1002/zoo.20013.
1814 in birding and ornithology

Following the death of George Shaw James Francis Stephens takes over General Zoology, or Systematic Natural History

William Elford Leach describes the fasciated antshrike and the black-throated coucal in his Zoological Miscellany (1814–1817)

Edward Smith Stanley publishes Remarks on the birds of Abyssinia in A Voyage to Abyssinia, & Travels into the interior of that country, executed under the orders of the British Government in the years 1809 & 1810 by Henry Salt. He scientifically describes the striped kingfisher and the red-billed oxpecker.

The Linnaean Society of New England founded. Like many such societies it was short-lived.

Foundation of Natural History Museum at the University of Oslo

Atherstone Nature Reserve

Atherstone Nature Reserve is a 23 500 hectare reserve situated close to Dwaalboom, in the Limpopo, province in South Africa. The reserve consists mainly of vast savannah plains with bushveld and Kalahari grasslands eco-systems. Besides antelopes, zebras and giraffes the black rhino and elephants are one of the highlights of Atherstone.

B. africanus

B. africanus may refer to:

Bubo africanus, the Spotted Eagle-owl, a medium-sized species of owl species

Buphagus africanus, the Yellow-billed Oxpecker, a passerine bird species

Cleaning symbiosis

Cleaning symbiosis is a mutually beneficial association between individuals of two species, where one (the cleaner) removes and eats parasites and other materials from the surface of the other (the client). Cleaning symbiosis is well-known among marine fish, where some small species of cleaner fish, notably wrasses but also species in other genera, are specialised to feed almost exclusively by cleaning larger fish and other marine animals. Other cleaning symbioses exist between birds and mammals, and in other groups.

Cleaning behaviour was first described by the Greek historian Herodotus in about 420 BC, though his example (birds serving crocodiles) appears to occur only rarely.

The role of cleaning symbioses has been debated by biologists for over thirty years. Some believe that cleaning represents selfless co-operation, essentially pure mutualism, increasing the fitness of both individuals. Others such as Robert Trivers hold that it illustrates mutual selfishness, reciprocal altruism. Others again believe that cleaning behaviour is simply one-sided exploitation, a form of parasitism.

Cheating, where either a cleaner sometimes harms its client, or a predatory species mimics a cleaner, also occurs. Predatory cheating is analogous to Batesian mimicry, as where a harmless hoverfly mimics a stinging wasp, though with the tables turned. Some genuine cleaner fish, such as gobies and wrasse, have the same colours and patterns, in an example of convergent evolution. Mutual resemblance among cleaner fish is analogous to Müllerian mimicry, as where stinging bees and wasps mimic each other.

Gleaning (birds)

Gleaning is a feeding strategy by birds in which they catch invertebrate prey, mainly arthropods, by plucking them from foliage or the ground, from crevices such as rock faces and under the eaves of houses, or even, as in the case of ticks and lice, from living animals. This behavior is contrasted with hawking insects from the air or chasing after moving insects such as ants. Gleaning, in birds, does not refer to foraging for seeds or fruit.

Gleaning is a common feeding strategy for some groups of birds, including nuthatches, tits (including chickadees), wrens, woodcreepers, treecreepers, Old World flycatchers, Tyrant flycatchers, babblers, Old World warblers, New World warblers, Vireos and some hummingbirds and cuckoos. Many birds make use of multiple feeding strategies, depending on the availability of different sources of food and opportunities of the moment.

Go, Diego, Go!

Go, Diego, Go! is an American animated educational interactive children's television program that premiered on Nickelodeon on September 6, 2005 in the United States and produced by Nickelodeon Animation Studio. Created and executive produced by Chris Gifford and Valerie Walsh, the series is a spin-off of Dora the Explorer and follows Dora's cousin Diego, an 8-year-old boy whose adventures frequently involve rescuing animals and protecting their environment.The series, which aired for five seasons, consisting of 74 episodes, premiered in 2005 at 8:00 p.m. The show aired in reruns on "Nick on CBS" for 11 months and 3 weeks from September 17, 2005 to September 9, 2006.The series received favorable reviews from critics and garnered particular acclaim for its portrayal of a bilingual Latino lead character, earning a total of four NAACP Image Award nominations for "Outstanding Children's Program" from 2008–2012, as well as earning Imagen Award and Young Artist Award nominations for Jake T. Austin for his role as the voice of Diego.The series returned to Nick Jr. on Pluto TV on May 1, 2019.

Haller Park

Haller Park is a nature park in Bamburi, Mombasa, on the Kenyan coast. It is the transformation of a quarry wasteland into an ecological area. Haller Park holds a variety of plant and animal species which serve as a recreation spot for tourists and locals. Up to March 2007 it held the attraction of Owen and Mzee – the friendship of a hippopotamus and a tortoise.

Kratts' Creatures

Kratts' Creatures is a half-hour children's television series that originally ran on PTV. The first in a series of programs produced by the Kratt Brothers, Chris and Martin Kratt, Kratts' Creatures was made to be the first wildlife show aimed specifically towards young children. It featured the Brothers Kratt as they traveled around the world exploring different animals and their habitats, receiving assistance from their friends Allison Baldwin (played by Shannon Duff) and Ttark, an animated anthropomorphic dinosaur (voiced by Ron Rubin). The show ran for one season on PTV from June 3, 1996 to August 9, 1996, with 50 episodes produced in total, with reruns continuing to air until June 9, 2000. Due to its popularity, the show inspired an unofficial spinoff, Zoboomafoo, also created by the Kratts, which premiered on January 25, 1999.

Lewis Black

Lewis Niles Black (born August 30, 1948) is an American stand-up comedian, author, playwright, social critic and actor. He is best known for his angry demeanour and belligerent comedic style, in which he often simulates having a mental breakdown. His comedy routines often escalate into angry rants about history, politics, religion, or any other cultural trends. He hosted the Comedy Central series Lewis Black's Root of All Evil and makes regular appearances on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah delivering his "Back in Black" commentary segment, which he has been doing since The Daily Show was hosted by Craig Kilborn.

When not on the road performing, Black resides in Manhattan, but also maintains a residence in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. He is also a spokesman for the Aruba Tourism Authority, appearing in television ads that first aired in late 2009 and 2010, as well as the voice of Anger in 2015's Pixar film, Inside Out. He was voted 51st of the 100 greatest stand-up comedians of all time by Comedy Central in 2004; he was voted 5th in Comedy Central's Stand Up Showdown in 2008 and 11th in 2010. Black has served as an "ambassador for voting rights" for the American Civil Liberties Union, since 2013.

Lightning bird

The lightning bird or impundulu or thekwane (or izulu, inyoni yezulu) is a creature in the folklore of the tribes of South Africa including the Pondo, the Zulu and the Xhosa.The impundulu (which translates as "lightning bird") takes the form of a black and white bird, the size of a person, which is said to summon thunder and lightning with its wings and talons. It is a vampiric creature associated with witchcraft, often the servant or familiar of a witch or witch doctor, which attacks the witch's enemies. It is said to have an insatiable appetite for blood. Sometimes it takes the form of a beautiful young man who seduces women.

List of birds of Malawi

This is a list of the bird species recorded in Malawi. The avifauna of Malawi include a total of 650 species, of which one has been introduced by humans and thirty-one are rare or accidental. Ten species are globally threatened. Several bird subspecies are endemic to Malawi. One of these, the yellow-throated apalis, is treated as a full endemic species by some authors. Several species such as the Thyolo alethe are near-endemic to Malawi with only a restricted range outside the country.

This list's taxonomic treatment (designation and sequence of orders, families and species) and nomenclature (common and scientific names) follow the conventions of The Clements Checklist of Birds of the World, 6th edition. The family accounts at the beginning of each heading reflect this taxonomy, as do the species counts found in each family account. Introduced and accidental species are included in the total counts for Malawi.

The following tags have been used to highlight several categories, but not all species fall into one of these categories. Those that do not are commonly occurring native species.

(A) Accidental - a rarely occurring species with no more than about five records in Malawi

(I) Introduced - a species introduced to Malawi as a consequence, direct or indirect, of human actions

(Ex) Extirpated - a species that no longer occurs in Malawi although populations exist elsewhere

Nkasa Rupara National Park

Nkasa Rupara National Park, also Nkasa Lupala National Park, formerly Mamili National Park, is a national park in Namibia. It is centered on the Nkasa and Rupara islands on the Kwando/Linyanti River in the south-western corner of East Caprivi. Botswana lies to the west, south and east, and Sangwali village to the north. It is Namibia's largest formally protected wetland area.

It is one of Namibia’s protected areas that benefits local communities surrounding parks. The unfenced park forms a trans-boundary link for wildlife migration between Angola, Botswana, Namibia and Zambia. Nkasa Rupara is part of the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KaZa TFCA).

Northern white-crowned shrike

The northern white-crowned shrike or white-rumped shrike (Eurocephalus ruppelli), is a shrike found in dry thornbush, semi-desert, and open acacia woodland in east Africa from south eastern South Sudan and southern Ethiopia to Tanzania. Its binomial name commemorates the German naturalist and explorer Eduard Rüppell.

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.

Shaba National Reserve

Shaba National Reserve is a protected area in northern Kenya to the east of the Samburu and Buffalo Springs national reserves. Together, the three reserves form a large protected area.The Shaba reserve has dramatic scenery including river-side forests, scattered woodlands and dry grasslands dominated by the Shaba Hill volcano. The plentiful wildlife relies on waterholes and marshes scattered throughout the reserve. Shaba is home to the endangered Grevy's zebra and the rare Williams's lark. Shaba was the setting for the book and film Born Free, for the film Out of Africa and for the reality show Survivor: Africa.

The reserve is a popular destination for tourists. There is some risk that excess numbers of visitors and growth of the local population around the reserve may place stress on the environment.

Sibley-Monroe checklist 14

The Sibley-Monroe checklist was a landmark document in the study of birds. It drew on extensive DNA-DNA hybridisation studies to reassess the relationships between modern birds.

Tamasheq language

Tamashek, or Tamasheq, is a Malian variety of Tuareg, a Berber macro-language widely spoken by nomadic tribes across North Africa in Algeria, Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso. Tamashek is one of the three main varieties of Tuareg, the others being Tamajak and Tamahak.Tamashek is spoken mostly in Mali, especially in its central region including Timbuktu, Kidal, and Gao. It is also spoken by a smaller population in Burkina Faso. As of 2014, approximately 500,000 people speak Tamashek, 378,000 of whom are Malian. The livelihood of the Tuareg people has been under threat in the last century, due to climate change and a series of political conflicts, notably the Arab-Tuareg rebellion of 1990-95 in Mali which resulted in ethnic cleansing of the Tuareg in the form of reprisal killings and exile. Tamashek is currently classified as a developing language (5), partly due to the Malian government's active promotion of the language; it is currently taught in public education, from primary schools to adult literacy classes.Tamashek is often understood in Mali as a term that denotes all Tuareg varieties. Other alternative names for Tamashek include Tamachen, Tamashekin, and Tomacheck.


Wissper is a CGI German-British-Irish children's animated television series produced by the animation studio m4e, Telegael and Bastei Media. The first episode premiered in October 12, 2015. It is broadcast on UK TV channel Channel 5 - Milkshake!.

Yellow-billed oxpecker

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.


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