Why an oxpecker sits on top of large animals?


SHAKESPEARE wrote, “Nature teaches beasts to know their friends.”
And, indeed, there are many beneficial partnerships in the animal world.

One of these involves the oxpecker bird, a resident of wild game parks.

Approximately eight inches [20 cm] long, this bird is endowed with a broad, thickened yellow or red beak, short legs, and powerful claws.

It is usually found sitting atop large game animals like hippos and on domestic cattle.


The oxpecker is busy exploring every crevice and wrinkle in their hides, seeking to rid its hosts of harmful ticks.

Oxpecker on top of a large animal.

Its work, however, is not without recompense, for these ticks are the oxpecker’s chief food source.

Both man and beast benefit from the oxpecker’s services.

Ornithologist Oliver Austin, Jr., notes:
Bushmen and primitive farmers value [oxpeckers] for ridding their cattle of ticks.”
To African game hunters, though, oxpeckers are a nuisance.

How so?

Imagine a hunter stealthily closing within striking distance of his quarry.

Suddenly, up flies the vigilant sentinel—the oxpecker bird!

With clamorous, agitating cries, the oxpecker now alerts its partner that danger is near.

Away flees the game!