The first two photos today come from reader John Harshman. Oxpeckers! He originally called the photos “Spot the oxpeckers,” but of course it’s not a challenge.
In Botswana, the oxpeckers are all over most of the large mammals. How many can you count? These are yellow-billed oxpeckers Buphagus africanus, specializing on animals with thick skin. The other species, red-billed oxpecker, Buphagus erythrorhynchus, is most often found on thinner-skinned animals. Both of them eat ticks and other arthropod parasites, and so we have a fine case of mutualism. You can probably identify the large mammal. If you look closely at the fellow at upper left, caught in mid-hop, you might be able to see the two-tone bill, reminiscent of candy corn, that gives the bird the first half of its name. You can also distinguish it from its congener by absence of a prominent yellow eye-ring and, even better at a distance, absence of a light brown rump.
OK, this isn’t a hard problem. There are 8 oxpeckers, and no nightjars.
OK, maybe not mutualism. The oxpeckers here may in fact have inflicted the wounds you can see on the giraffe’s rear leg in order to drink its blood and/or attract insects.
And, continuing our African theme, we have photos from reader Benjamin Taylor, who went on a camping trip around southern Africa (Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Zambia) in November of last year.
Southern carmine bee-eater (Merops nubicoides):
Lilac-breasted roller (Coracias caudatus):
Baobab tree (possibly Adansonia digitata):
The border between Botswana and Namibia:
Two african savanna elephants (Loxodonta africana) playing beside the Chobe River (Chobe National Park, Botswana):
Southwest African lion (Panthera leo bleyenberghi), Chobe National Park, Botswana:
African savanna elephant (Loxodonta africana), Chobe National Park, Botswana: