Giraffa camelopardalis reticulata & Buphagus erythrorhynchus
Colored Pencil on Film
The reticulated giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis reticulata) share a symbiotic relationship with the Red-billed oxpeckers (Buphagus erythrorhynchus) and Yellow-billed oxpeckers (Buphagus africanus). The oxpeckers, also known as tickbirds eats ticks and parasites off the giraffe and are dependent on their host for much of their food. In return, the giraffe is relieved of blood-sucking, disease-carrying parasites. The birds prefer mature female ticks swollen with blood, but will also comb through the host’s hair looking for more hidden insects. The oxpeckers are perching birds with feet that are built for grasping the thick hide of the giraffe, allowing them to ride and eat while the giraffe is in motion. The hitchhiking birds make a hissing sound when they sense danger. It is debatable whether or not this actually benefits the giraffe, whose keen eyesight and stature allows it to be the first to spot predators, establishing them as the “Watchdogs of the Savanna.” The birds can also be seen cleaning the giraffe’s teeth with their pointed bill, and bedding down under the giraffe’s armpits for the night.