Oxpeckers
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Yellow-billed Oxpecker L: 22 cm (9") The canary-yellow bill with a red-tip, red eye and pale rump on an otherwise brown bird is diagnostic . Although juveniles lack the bright coloration of adult birds, they can be distinguished from juvenile Red-billed Oxpeckers by their pale rump . The Yellow-billed Oxpecker became extinct in South Africa by 1910 due to a combination of rinderpest wiping out buffaloes and poisoning by arsenic-based cattle dips . Remarkably, it recolonized naturally in 1979, once the dips were banned and African Buffalo numbers had recovered . This oxpecker is now widespread in the northern half of Kruger and although still uncommon, numbers are slowly increasing and its range is spreading southwards . It roams in small groups feeding off large ungulates, particularly buffaloes, giraffes and both rhino species . This species is reliant on conservation areas, but will also forage on domestic animals when it strays outside parks . The flight call is a short, harsh buzz . Oxpeckers are strange relatives of starlings that feed exclusively from the bodies of large mammals, consuming mainly blood, ticks and other ectoparasites, and earwax. There is some debate as to whether the interactions between oxpeckers and mammals is mutually beneficial, with the birds obtaining a blood-filled meal while ridding large mammals of harmful parasites, but the fact that the birds also feed on open wounds, and may deliberately keep wounds open, suggests that they are actually true parasites. Both species of oxpecker may breed cooperatively , with helpers assisting related birds to raise young. Like starlings, oxpeckers are hole-nesters. Oxpecker became extinct in South Africa by 1910 due to a combination of rinderpest Remarkably, it recolonized naturally in 1979, once the dips were short, harsh buzz . Oxpeckers juvenile 142 Red-billed Oxpecker L: 20 cm (8") A slim, short-billed, short-legged plain brown bird with a diagnostic all-red bill and red eyes surrounded by fleshy yellow wattles . Juveniles lack bright coloration but, like adults, have a uniform brown rump and back (not pale as in Yellow-billed Oxpecker) . This species is a common and widespread resident in Kruger, although numbers have declined outside protected areas . Small flocks move between large mammals with an undulating, swooping flight, settling on an animal in much the same way as a woodpecker lands on a tree . In flight, it gives a swizzling-crackle call . BIRDS OF BROADLEAVED WOODLAND AND CAMPS juvenile 143 ...