Robert Henderson's picture

Yellow Billed Oxpecker Zebra

The two juvenile Yellow Billed Oxpeckers are looking for a handout, but to no avail. They are going to have to find their own tasty ticks for dinner. Everyone who visits East Africa has pictures of these ubiquitous birds on their favorite animals, but I really like the way the stripes of the zebra swirl and focus attention on the birds.

I took the image in the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, with a Canon EOS 7D Mark II with a Canon EF 100-400 mm f/ 4.5-5.6 IS II USM lens with a Canon 1.4X III teleconverter. The exposure settings were 1/1000 sec, f/ 8.0, ISO 800, 560 mm.

Canon 7D Mark II
560 mm · f/8 · 1/1000 sec · ISO 800
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Robert, wonderful animal portraiture is that mom a youngster?

Hi Paul,

Thanks for your kind words.

There's no telling if the adult Oxpecker is related to the adolescents.

Juvenile oxpeckers don't have the red and yellow beak markings they will have as adults.

When adult birds are solicited by juveniles, they will sometimes provide a snack. This happens often enough that it's worth trying. But eventually, as they mature, the juveniles develop the adult color scheme, after which time, nobody eats for free!

Thanks again,


Bob, thanks for the natural history I just noticed the youngins and adult. At the age of those juveniles parents are trying to cut those ties or do these birds form family groups as the juveniles mature?

Hi Paul,

I have never noticed oxpeckers forming tightly organized flocks. Individual birds seem to flutter off to new animals one at a time. And the host animals are constantly wandering in different directions as well. I could be wrong, but the only time they seem to form a family group is when the baby birds are still in the nest.