Buphagus africanus (Yellow-billed oxpecker) 

GeelbekrenostervoŽl [Afrikaans]; iHlalankomo, iHlalanyathi (terms also applied to Red-billed oxpecker) [Zulu]; Kamugcara (generic term for oxpecker; check: same name as Red-billed buffalo weaver and African pygmy-goose) [Kwangali]; Tsande (generic name for oxpecker) [Shona]; Geelsnavel-ossepikker [Dutch]; Piqueboeuf ŗ bec jaune [French]; Gelbschnabel-madenhacker [German]; Pica-bois-de-bico-amarelo [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Passeriformes > Family: Sturnidae > Genus: Buphagus

Buphagus africanus (Yellow-billed oxpecker)   

Yellow-billed oxpecker, Kunene River Lodge, Namibia. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]


For information about oxpeckers, see birdinfo.co.za.

Distribution and habitat

Occurs in patches across sub-Saharan Africa, from Senegal to eastern Sudan south though Kenya and Tanzania, Zambia and Malawi to southern Africa. Here it is locally common in the far north of Namibia, northern Botswana and Zimbabwe, marginally extending into Mozambique and South Africa. It generally prefers open savanna woodland, as it uses the large mammal inhabitants as sources of ticks and other ectoparasites.

Distribution of Yellow-billed oxpecker in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project (© Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  


It mainly eats ectoparasites (such as ticks and lice) taken from the skin of large mammals, especially Plains zebra (Equus quagga), rhinoceros (both African species), Hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius), Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardis) and bovines, specifically antelope, cattle and African buffalo (Syncerus caffer). It may also glean blood and mucus from long hair, or drink blood from wounds.


  • It typically nests in a tree cavity lined with grass and hair plucked from its host mammals, although it may rarely use a hole in a wall.
  • Egg-laying season is from September-March.
  • It lays 2-3 eggs, which are incubated for about 13 days.
  • The chicks leave the nest after about 25 days.


Not threatened globally but Vulnerable in South Africa, where it is scarce and localised.


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town. 



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