Family Oxpeckers (Buphagidae)

Least Concern

Red-billed Oxpecker (Buphagus erythrorynchus)


French: Piqueboeuf à bec rouge German: Rotschnabel-Madenhacker Spanish: Picabueyes piquirrojo

Tanagra erythroryncha


, 1814,



Hybrids with B. africanus recorded in Zimbabwe, perhaps increasingly so#R. Birds from R Palala, in N South Africa (E Limpopo Province), described as race caffer, and birds from Panda, in S Mozambique (Inhambane district), as race scotinus, but both considered inseparable from those in rest of species’ range; other proposed races include invictus (Somalia, NE Kenya), angolensis (SE Angola) and bestiarum (S Zimbabwe). Commonly misspelt “erythrorhynchus”; original spelling must stand. Monotypic.


Eritrea, Ethiopia, Djibouti, extreme SE South Sudan (possibly SE Sudan) and N, W & S Somalia S, patchily, to SE DRCongo, Zambia, Malawi, extreme SE Angola, NE Namibia (Caprivi Strip), N & E Botswana, Zimbabwe, N & E South Africa, Swaziland and S Mozambique.

Descriptive notes

20 cm; 42–59 g. Somewhat variable, with dark olive-brown head to throat and tail, mantle often comparatively paler, most of upperwing darker and more olive-grey; chest... read more


Male song of soft calls interspersed with trills and whistles; in courtship, drawn-out whistling... read more


Savanna woodland and farmland, up to 3000 m; absent from forested regions and from arid, treeless... read more

Food and feeding

Diet primarily ectopa­rasites of large mammals, mainly ticks (Ixodoidea), also mites (Mesostigmata), lice (Ano­plura), leeches (... read more


Breeds following rainfall, Jan–Mar in Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia (recorded also Apr, Jul and Aug in Ethiopia); recorded in all... read more


Resident, with only local movements of up to 50 km recorded. Daily flights from roost-sites to... read more

Status and conservation

Not globally threatened. Widespread in E & SE Africa, and common in game reserves; in 2000, estimates of more than 32,000 individuals in Kruger National Park (South... read more

Recommended citation

Craig, A. (2020). Red-billed Oxpecker (Buphagus erythrorynchus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 25 February 2020).