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  • Bruce, Judy, Justin and Sabre. I am so sorry for not getting back to you sooner. I have no excuse. However, I do want to thank you for the wonderful experience I had while at your place. Your place had to be the highlight of the trip. And thank you for making the cake for my birthday. That was so nice. Also thank you to Justin and Sabre for giving up their Sunday. By now you have probably forgotten who I am. Hello to mamasinna (?spelling) and Thankyou for all the good food. Did your son ever get his papers he needed? Should have stayed in Africa-we've had no spring and its pouring today. Looks like we may not even get a summer. No point in complaining-BUT. Also enjoyed the talks you did in the evenings around the fire. Once again thank you so much.. Regards Linda Lamb
    - Linda Lamb, Canada
Hoedspruit Accommodation

News & Updates

Oxpeckers-busy birds and groomed game

Published 6 December 2010 under Travelogue • Comments: 14
Oxpeckers-busy birds and groomed game
In September we were thrilled to sight 3 Yellow-billed Ox-peckers feeding on a buffalo cow within a herd.
These rare birds differ from the Red-billed Oxpeckers by the swollen yellow base to the bill and a pale rump as well as the lack of the yellow eye ring that the Red-billed Oxpeckers have. Yellow-billed tend to be a bit larger and of course the feeding styles of the two species means that they favour different host and tick species.
Numbers of Yellow-billed Oxpeckers dwindled in the past until they were considered extinct as a breeding species in South Africa by 1920. The main cause for the decline in numbers was the widespread over-hunting of the preferred host species the buffalo and rhino. The rinderbest epidemic in 1880 decimated cattle numbers and the use of arsenic and organophosphate dips for cattle also played a key role.
Yellow-billed and Red-billed Oxpeckers are endemic to Sub Saharan Africa but are certainly closely related to starlings as they share the same feather melanin granule structure. Oxpeckers also have the same scissoring movement of jaws and similar jaw musculature as the Asian starling Scissorostru dubium.  Foot and tail morphology and feeding behaviour differ greatly from starlings.
Ox-peckers are gregarious and breed co-operatively. This means that within a group of 5 birds or more, only one pair actually breeds. The other members of the group help with collecting nesting material. They pluck hair from the host animals and collect dung to build their nests. The nests are built in tree cavities 3-6 m above the ground .The nest is a shallow cupped pad on the floor of the cavity made with grass and thickly lined with animal hair. Both sexes and the helpers from the group build the nest. Eggs are laid in Oct by the Yellow-billed and a month or so later in Red-billed.  Both sexes incubate the eggs for 12-13 days. The fledglings are brooded and fed by both sexes with the helpers assisting with feeding.
The mutualistic association oxpeckers enjoy with their large mammal hosts is developed to a unique degree amongst birds world wide. The birds travel with the herds, feed almost exclusively off their ectoparasites, rest and preen, court and copulate on them and often sleep on them at night.
 While feeding the well known scissoring action of the Red-billed Oxpeckers enable these birds to efficiently comb through the hair of the host. Up to 1666 ticks have been found in the stomach of a single bird. They have a diverse range of host animals while the Yellow-billed have a thicker, less dexterous bill and are more selective when it comes to host species favouring buffalo, giraffe impala and warthog.  Yellow-billed Oxpeckers tend to peck the parasites off
the hosts and their restricted host species made them more vulnerable to chemical in dips.  
The introduction of environmentally combatable chemicals such as pyretroid and amidine acaricides as a means of pest control has brought new hope for oxpeckers. Endangered Wildlife Trust has a reintroduction program to expand the populations into area where oxpeckers used to occur
There were sightings of Yellow-billed Oxpeckers in the north of the Kruger Park as early as 1979. These birds were believed to have come from Zimbabwe. Six years later the birds were confirmed to be breeding. Sighting further south in Kruger in mid 1980’s were thought to come from Mozambique and evidence now suggests Kruger has a healthy breeding population of Yellow-billed Oxpeckers.
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