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 ox pecker.  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 ox peckers are drawn to the buffalo because of the parasites and flies that infest these giants.  The buffalo allow the presence of the oxpecker because it benefits them as well.  The ox pecker 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 ox peckers, 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, ox peckers 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 ox peckers on the backs of these giant buffalos.

 

About Nick Hewitt

I love to travel, especially to view wildlife and play golf. I have spent the last decade traveling to some amazing places and have taken some great photos along the way. I really enjoy learning as much as I can about the places and people I see in my travels. I also enjoy observing and learning about some of the beautiful wildlife I see. I find the best stories come from the locals and I purposely seek out these folks. I look forward to future travels and will post some of the stories and photos along the way!
This entry was posted in Africa, Safari, Serengeti, Tanzania, Wildlife and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Cape Buffalo and the Ox Pecker

  1. Caterina says:

    I’ve always been amazed by these mutually beneficial relationships 🙂 it just seems so…natural?

    Like

  2. LuAnn says:

    These birds remind me of the cow birds that hitch a ride on the bison in Yellowstone National Park. Great images!

    Like

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