Differential foraging of oxpeckers on impala in comparison with sympatric antelope species

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Published data reveal a significant positive relationship between number of red-billed oxpeckers Buphagus erythrorhynchus per unit body surface area and species-typical body weight, suggesting that the larger ungulate species maintain a higher density of tick mass per unit surface area. The impala Aepyceros melampus is the smallest ungulate that oxpeckers are reported to attend. A field survey of attendance by red-billed oxpeckers on impala and 4 other sympatric antelope, 2 of which are larger than impala, revealed that only impalal were attended by oxpeckers. Oxpeckers foraged upon areas of the body that impala cannot reach with their own mouths by oral grooming. The typical behavioural response of impala to oxpecker foraging was toleration or accommodation. That impala apparently harbour a greater tick mass per unit body surface area than the other antelopes compared could reflect the fact that impala inhabit wooded areas, higher in tick density than grassland areas inhabited by the other antelopes. -from Authors

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)240-249
Number of pages10
JournalAfrican Journal of Ecology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1990

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology


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