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Monday, December 10, 2012

Look at my earrings! Impala's unconventional accessorising using two birds instead of jewellery

By Sara Malm

This impala is looking mighty proud showing off it’s unconventional ‘earrings’, in the shape of two oxpecker birds.

But the fashion forward move, spotted in Kruger National Park, South Africa, was not just down to the bird’s brightly coloured beaks.

The red-billed oxpecker and the mammals roaming the sub-Saharan plains have a mutually benefiting relationship where the birds feed on ticks and other ectoparasites from the animals’ fur.

Birds in fashion: The impala looked very content with its choice of earrings for the day

This cleans the mammals’ fur, but the birds do not stop there; they also eat earwax and dandruff and clean old wounds.

The oxpeckers are completely dependent on large mammals and spend most of their lives in their pelts.

A fully grown oxpecker can devour up to 100 ticks and 12,000 tick larvae a day.
Aside from providing the birds with parasites and other treats, the mammals’ fur provides building material for their nests.

Parakeet parasites: The Oxpecker birds feed off what they can find in the pelts of large mammals - but they also take care of dandruff and earwax

The photographs of the impala and its oxpecker earrings were taken by South African photographer and writer Villiers Steyn, 30.

Travelling extensively in his work, alongside partner Tabby, he regularly frequents Kruger National Park to capture nature at its best.

A peck-me-up: No pain, no gain for this impala as the Oxpeckers climb across its face to clean its fur and horns from ticks and other ectoparasites



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