Zambia: Oxpeckers

Oxpeckers are two species of birds (yellow-billed and red-billed oxpeckers) that live in the open savanna in Africa. What makes them unique is that their diet consists exclusively of several species of ticks that live mostly in large mammals – hippos, elephants, buffalo, giraffe, zebra, and some antelopes. Often you can spot these animals with birds sitting on their backs and heads. While for many years this was considered a relationship of mutualism – animals tolerate the birds in exchange for being cleaned off the ticks – more recent studies suggest that oxpecker birds are parasites themselves feeding on animal blood and tissues in addition to ticks and opening wounds on animals skin.