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common name for an African starling of the genus Buphagus. Also known as tickbirds, oxpeckers have very short legs and sharp claws, which aid them in perching on the backs of large mammals, both wild and domesticated. The animal host pays no heed to them, and only the elephant seems not to tolerate them. Oxpeckers use their broad, thick, laterally flattened beaks to pick at and feed on skin parasites such as ticks and embedded larvae. They also pick at scabs, often opening and enlarging wounds, and probably obtain their main nourishment from the blood from these wounds rather than from the ticks. Although these birds are valuable from the standpoint of ridding domesticated animals of ticks, they also feed on tick-free game and become debilitating parasites themselves. Nevertheless, they protect wild game from danger by setting up rattling cries, which alert the animals to the presence of predators. There are two species of oxpeckers, both about 9 in. (23 cm) long, with brown plumage and lacking distinctive markings. The slightly larger yellow-billed oxpecker (B. africanus), found from Senegal to Ethiopia and E South Africa, has a yellow, red-tipped bill, while that of the purely African red-billed oxpecker (B. erythrorhychus) is totally red. Oxpeckers are so highly adapted to life on their hosts that even courtship behavior and copulation occur upon the host animal's back. The hair of the animal is used to line the bird's nest, built usually in a tree by the yellow-billed oxpecker or a rock-hole by the red-billed. Females lay three to five white to pale blue, brown-spotted eggs per clutch. Oxpeckers are classified in the phylum ChordataChordata
, phylum of animals having a notochord, or dorsal stiffening rod, as the chief internal skeletal support at some stage of their development. Most chordates are vertebrates (animals with backbones), but the phylum also includes some small marine invertebrate animals.
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, subphylum Vertebrata, class Aves, order Passeriformes, family Sturnidae.
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Suddenly a flock of noisy, red-billed oxpeckers flew overhead and abruptly dropped from the sky--a portent that the bulls were only a few yards from us.
The symbiotic relationship between oxpeckers (Buphagus spp.), the world's only obligate tick bird, and their African ungulate hosts, is well known.
We approached to within 10 metres, close enough to see the markings on the oxpecker birds sitting on the backs of several of the buffalo.
In fact, they usually treat this little African bird, called an oxpecker, as a guest.
The five-volume video ranges from New Zealand's nocturnal kiwi, whose shape and gait resemble a foraging opossum, to the oxpecker grooming cattle in the blazing African sun by nibbling lice and savory flakes of dandruff.
(Possible answers: the zebra and the oxpecker; the clown fish and the sea anemone.)
The report released this week by Oxpeckers Investigative Environmental Journalism, and sponsored by The Donkey Sanctuary, tracked the trade route of donkeys being smuggled from Ethiopia and into Kenyan slaughterhouses.
Two birds called red-billed oxpeckers are feasting on parasites that live in the ears of this impala, a medium- sized antelope from Africa.
This type of wound in free-ranging wildlife is normally attributed to an initial puncture by ticks and enlarged by oxpeckers, and frequently infested by fly larvae (Weeks 2000, Oberem and Oberem 2011).
"At least 60 billion rand [$4.6 billion] has been put up by mining companies for rehabilitation, but we've shown it is not being spent, and in fact no large mines have been closed in South Africa since 2011," says Fiona Macleod, founder of Oxpeckers Center for Investigative Environmental Journalism.
The oxpeckers, which are birds, eat ticks or other parasites off the skin of the zebras.
Simon Cowell: "And what do you do?" One of demented dance act, The Sugar Dandies: "I'm a psychologist" (Britain's Got Talent) Gourmets of the week "Buffalo are plagued by the oxpeckers' attentions as they poke and probe, feasting on bugs, dead skin, saliva, even earwax" - narrator (Natural World).