While we are used to seeing Red-billed Oxpeckers in places such as the Kruger National Park, their resident range has become greatly reduced over the years because of their need for ungulate hosts. Red-billed Oxpeckers feed on ticks and blood-sucking flies and so can usually be spotted on game such as zebra, buffalo, kudu as well as domestic animals like cattle and horses. With the increase in private game reserves and game farms, it became viable to re-introduce these birds to the Eastern Cape, where they had become extinct, partly due to the practice of dipping cattle with toxic chemicals. The first Red-billed Oxpeckers – from the Kruger National Park – were released in 1990 in places such as the Addo Elephant National Park, the Great Fish River Reserve and some years later on a private game farms and reserves.
It has been exciting to spot them in the Addo Elephant National Park. Last year I saw a few perched on cattle on the edge of our town, but they were too far away to photograph. It seemed to have been a chance sighting until last week when I spotted three of them on this pony only ten minutes from home: