Yellow-billed Oxpecker

  • SCIENTIFIC NAME: Buphagus africanus

  • SWAHILI NAME: Shashi domo-njano; Askari wa kifaru

Oxpeckers are commonly seen gobbling ticks from the backs of African mammals. Far from being welcome guests, recent studies view these birds more as vampires that dig into their hosts to reach their preferred food: blood. Most mammals seem to tolerate the wounding as the cost of this pest-control service.

Yellow-billed Oxpecker

Yellow-billed Oxpecker



Daily Rhythm




Conservation Status

Lower risk


8 in (20 cm) long

Yellow-billed Oxpecker

Listen to the sounds of the Yellow-billed Oxpecker

Trivia Question

What agrarian practice threatens oxpeckers?


Some anti-tick dips used on cattle contain arsenic, which can kill oxpeckers.


The call of the yellow-billed oxpecker is a crackling kriss, kriss.


Yellow-bills nest in tree holes that they line with hair plucked from their hosts. Yellow-bills that are not breeding will spend the night roosting on the mammal that provided their meal.


The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists the status of the yellow-billed oxpecker as “lower risk.” However, its populations are declining primarily due to a reduction in the number of large game animals and the increased use of anti-tick cattle dips containing arsenic.


The yellow-billed oxpecker eats ticks, larvae, and blood.


Yellow-billed oxpeckers nest in tree holes lined with hair plucked from their hosts. Females usually lay two or three eggs.

Friends & Foes

The yellow-billed oxpecker’s range overlaps that of the red-billed oxpecker. When both species feed on the same group of host animals, the yellow-bill is usually dominant.

Population in Kenya

Yellow-billed oxpeckers are found in western Kenya and throughout the savanna of sub-Saharan Africa.

Range & Habitat

Yellow-billed oxpeckers live in small flocks and can be found at sea-level or in mountains as high as 9,800 feet (3,000 m).

Did you know?

The Operation Oxpecker project in South Africa aims to save both yellow-billed and red-billed oxpeckers by relocating birds to areas in the country where their populations have been declining.