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Birds Guide


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Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Sturnidae
Subfamily: Buphaginae
Genus: Buphagus
Brisson, 1760
See text.

The oxpeckers are two species of bird which comprise the subfamily Buphaginae within the starling family Sturnidae (some ornithologists regard them as a separate family Buphagidae). Oxpeckers are endemic to sub-Saharan African savannah.

Oxpeckers are medium-sized starlings with strong feet. Their flight is strong and direct, and they are fairly gregarious. Their preferred habitat is open country, and they eat insects. Both the English and scientific names arise from their habit of perching on large mammals (both wild and domesticated) such as cattle or rhinoceroses, and eating ticks, botfly larvae, and other parasites which lodge in mammalian skin and must be dug out. This symbiotic relationship is sometimes mutualistic, but can also be parasitic in nature.

Their plumage is light brown, and the species can be distinguished by bill-colour. They nest in holes, often in walls, lined with hair plucked from livestock and lay 2-3 eggs.

The species are:

  • Red-billed Oxpecker, Buphagus erythrorhynchus of east Africa
    Yellow-billed Oxpecker, Buphagus africanus of most of sub-saharan Africa.

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