July 18, 2008

Magpies as oxpeckers

Recently two magpies were seen inspecting the herd of wisents like oxpeckers and picking ticks off their furs. For almost half an hour the two birds were inspecting the six wisents from head to foot, regularly finding ticks and eating them. Not a single patch was missed and particularly the armpit and groin regions were submitted to close and lengthy examination. Obviously, also magpies know that the chance of finding ticks is highest in these regions.

The wisents undergo the activities unconcerned. Only the ears are more or less a forbidden area for the magpies. It is known that other undomesticated cattle such as Galloway, Scottish Highland and Heck are also frequently visited by magpies removing ticks and other parasites from their furs. Sometimes the animals put their legs wide apart so that the ticks in armpits and groins are well visible. Maybe the wisents still have to learn this trick.


Magpie and bison. Photo: Leo Linnartz