Sorry for the delay once again. Same reason: tons of work!
In S106, we just saw Impalas with Red-Billed Oxpeckers. Here are some pictures of this interesting interaction, which can be mutualistic, when the Oxpeckers help the Impalas (or other animals) in getting rid of parasites, but can be also parasitic, when the Oxpeckers keep wounds open to drink blood from it. This reminds us of how plastic are phenotypes and ecological interactions. The complexity of ecological interactions is discussed in this interesting paper, precisely using the red-billed oxpecker as an example: http://beheco.oxfordjournals.org/content/11/2/154.full
Look how the Oxpecker gets into the Impalas’ ear. This seems to be a mutualistic case, since the Impala not only allows the Oxpecker to intrude its beak in her ears, but even bends the ear to make access easier.
I also like this bucolic picture of the road
Red-Billed Oxpeckers are classified as Least Concern in the IUCN Red List, but with decreasing populations. However, the decline is not regarded to be sufficiently rapid to make the species approach the thresholds of vulnerability to extinction.
Here is a map of the distribution of this species: http://maps.iucnredlist.org/map.html?id=106006845
Recordings of their calls can be found here: http://www.xeno-canto.org/browse.php?sp ... d+oxpecker
Quite interesting calls.
They sometimes hawk termites aerially and glean prey from vegetation. Nevertheless, most of its diet is composed by ticks plucked from the skin of large mammals, especially Zebras, Rhinos, Giraffes, horses, donkeys, goats and bovines, specifically antelopes, cattle and African buffalo. As remarked above, they may also collect blood and mucus from mammals with long hair, often drinking blood from fresh wounds. This might be beneficial, since it keeps the area clean and prevents infection or infestation by fly larvae, but might also be detrimental, because it leaves the wound open and unhealed.
Regarding their reproductive behavior, it is worth mentioning that they are monogamous birds, and, also, cooperative breeders. The breeding pair are usually assisted by up to 7 helpers, usually unmated adults and juveniles from the previous breeding season.
We followed, then, through S140, where more sightings were awaiting for us: 3 Burchell's Starlings (Lamprotornis australis
), Rhino’s spores, 2 European Rollers (Coracias garrulus
), 3 Helmeted Guineafowls (Numida meleagris
), 1 Levaillant’s (Striped) Cuckoo (Oxylophus levaillanti
), 3 Giraffes + 2 Giraffes (Giraffa camelopardalis
), at two different spots, 4 Red-Billed Oxpeckers (Buphagus erythrorhynchus
), 1 Southern Yellow-Billed Hornbill (Tockus leucomelas
), 1 Fork-tailed Drongo (Dicrurus adsimilis
), 1 Three-Banded Plover (Charadrius tricollaris
), in N’waswitsontso river, 1 Ruff (Philomachus pugnax
), in the same river, 1 Leopard Tortoise (Stigmochelys pardalis
), 2 juvenile Cape-Glossy Starlings (Lamprotornis nitens
), 1 Purple Roller (Coracias naevius
Here is a nice picture of one of the Burchell’s Starlings we saw, despite the branches.
These birds are not threatened, even though their population trend is unknown. The species is, anyway, locally common. It occurs from southern Angola and western Zambia to southern Africa, generally preferring open woodland and savanna, especially with Camel thorn (Acacia erioloba
) and Knob thorn (Acacia nigrescens
Regarding their ecological interactions, it is a known prey of Wahlberg’s Eagles, and a host for the brood parasite Great Spotted Cuckoo. They mainly eat arthropods, along with small vertebrates and fruit.
Spores are always nice to find and try to identify. Here is a picture of the Rhino’s spores.
I know they are so common, but Helmeted Guineafowls are such nice birds.
Look how the Giraffes were following down the road, swinging high but not low. It looked like a scene from a cartoon, great to see!
In the road, without the vegetation, they look even more majestic
This one had lost the tail, who knows how.
At a point they left the road. We were following them from a distance
Close-ups of an eating time
Look at this mane! Certainly a beauty!
They look nice together, floating above the world
I like the light in this picture
For the butt calendar, now with Red-Billed Oxpeckers.
A final picture, when one of them looked at us. You can see how tiny the head looks like above that tall neck.