The Yellow-billed Oxpecker and the giraffe

Mark Chua a.k.a. cajuca was in Kenya recently and returned with images of the Yellow-billed Oxpeckers (Buphagus africanus) picking ectoparasites from the neck of a giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis).

Oxpeckers spend most of the daylight hours on the backs of large mammals in the African plains. They usually forage in small groups of up to 20 birds, sometimes together with Red-billed Oxpeckers (B. erythrorhynchus). These two species are easily differentiated by the colour of the bill – red in red-billed and yellow with a red tip in yellow-billed.

These birds feed on lice, fly larvae and leeches picked off the mammals’ surface. They also feed on blood if there are open wounds on the animals and mucous from the nose and ears. Away from the mammals, the birds catch flying horseflies and blackflies.

This post is a cooperative effort between NaturePixels.org and BESG to bring the study of bird behaviour through photography to a wider audience.

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