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Apr 5, 2017

The vagaries of mutualistic relationships

Photos by Ingo Gerlach / Getty Images
Red-billed Oxpecker (Buphagus erythrorhynchus)
Red-billed Oxpeckers crowd the face of an African Buffalo as it shakes its head gently to dislodge them in Masai Mara, Kenya.   While many might assume the birds pictured below, are a constant nuisance to the buffalo who carry them around the Kenyan plains, they would only be half correct.   Red-billed Oxpeckers or other bird species often sit on the backs of buffaloes, pecking insects in open wounds and blood, picking vermin from the host's fur, and even looking deep into their ears and noses for food - a seemingly win-win compromise for both birds and buffaloes.   The photo below, by Ingo Gerlach, surprised me in that I had never seen so many birds on a buffalo's back before.   Amazing! 

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Barry the Birder

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