Our French guests, Lionel and Marianne, visited African Dream for a horse trail with Shannon as their guide. They had an amazing ride and even though Hoedspruit had just had some big rains both horses, Dave the Rave and Solar Flare, handled the slippery terrain without a problem.
While on trail the guests came close to some of the warthogs which had a small bird on their back. This is the Redbilled Oxpecker, which is a common bird that is usually found perched on mammals in southern Africa. It perches on rhino, giraffe, elephants, buffalo as well as the smaller species and is found in savannah lowveld
The Redbilled Oxpecker eats its host’s skin parasites (like ticks and fleas), bothersome flies, and dead host skin. The oxpecker eats hundreds of ticks and flies each day. However, their favorite food is blood, and while they may take on ticks bloated with blood, they also feed on it directly, pecking at the mammal’s wounds to keep them open to more parasites. So, what good the bird does for the mammal is negated by it keeping the wounds open to parasites and disease. The oxpecker and its host mammal have a symbiotic relationship, which means both species benefit from living together.