Africa

Cape Buffalo and the Ox Pecker

Ox Pecker-2250

A Cape Buffalo with an Oxpecker on its back in Serengeti National Park in Tanzania.

Those of you who have followed our blog closely know how much we love animals.  We plan a lot of our travel around seeing animals and we enjoy learning about animals.  It is fascinating to see wild animals in their natural habitat.

One of the more fascinating things we learned while we were in Africa is the relationship between the cape buffalo and the oxpecker.  These two animals couldn’t be more different, but yet they have a close relationship in the wild. Cape Buffalo are very protective and most animals choose to avoid approaching these massive creatures and their horns.  For good reason, as there are many predators roaming around the African bush, and buffalo get very aggressive when made uncomfortable.

The oxpecker, on the other hand, has no problem with landing on the backs of these huge buffalo.  The oxpeckers are drawn to the buffalo because of the parasites and flies that infest these giants.  The buffalo allows the presence of the oxpecker because it benefits them as well.  The oxpecker gets a meal and the buffalo get some grooming service and relief from the pesky flies.

Now, there is some debate as to whether the relationship between the cape buffalo and the oxpecker is symbiotic (or mutually beneficial), or whether the oxpecker itself is semi-parasitic.  Either way, the cape buffalos don’t seem to mind their presence.

The relationship that oxpeckers, both the red-billed and yellow-billed species found in sub-Saharan Africa, have with other animals in Africa isn’t limited to just cape buffalo.  On the contrary, oxpeckers can often be found near and on other animals such as giraffes, antelope, zebra, and rhinoceroses.  However, their relationship with cape buffalo is more well known because of the frequency in which you see oxpeckers on the backs of these giant buffalos.

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