Oxpecker on Giraffe

In Afrikaans the Oxpecker is called the Renostervoƫl, which means Rhino Bird (also known as the tickbird), but it may as well be called a Buffalo Bird because it spends so much time on them.

These little birds can be found wherever you see buffalo, rhino, giraffe, impala and other game.

There are two types: the Red-billed and Yellow-billed. They look very similar except the Yellow-billed has a yellow bill (with a red tip) - easy! The Red-billed variety also has a distinctive yellow ring around its eyes.

Where To Look For The Rhinoceros Bird

Red-billed Oxpecker on an impala

The Red-billed Oxpecker is more common than the Yellow-billed, the latter is mainly found in northern Botswana and surrounding area.

You won't have to look very hard, you should find them where ever you see game. They clamber about on their hosts, searching for ticks and blood-sucking flies. It does not bother the host animal, in fact this parasite-cleaning service is just what the doctor's ordered.

They live in flocks and may sometimes be seen gathering on one animal before flying off.

On one safari trip I saw about 25 of these birds clambering all over one giraffe.

They roost in their flock, and even help feeding each other's offspring.

You will need to be quick on the trigger to get decent pictures of these birds because their hosts normally move off when you get closer with your safari vehicle.

Your best bet is often a herd of impala because they are used to vehicles and not so skittish.

Once you have isolated the animal on which the bird is feeding you will still need to be quick because it can fly away at any moment to another animal further away.