The yellow and the red billed ox-peckers are found south of the Sahara with the red billed mostly in East Africa.
Feeding habits appear to be similar although breeding clutches differ with the red billed generally laying about five eggs and the yellow billed normally two to three, but could produce three broods in a season.
The nest is typically a tree cavity and often lined with hair from the animals that the bird frequents, along with roots, grass and even dung. The eggs hatch after about two weeks and the young are likely to leave the nest after about thirty days.
Courting and mating usually occurs on the backs of the animals that they spend so much of their time on.
The diet is somewhat interesting in that they are generally regarded as eating bugs and ticks thereby removing parasites from the animals. There is also evidence that the birds prefer certain tick species over others, specifically the large blue adult female variety. Ear wax, skin flakes and mucus add some variety to their diet.
Recent studies have shown that the birds not only remove ticks but peck at the wounds and even open new wounds in order to peck at the flesh and the blood.
This suggests that blood is in fact the favorite food whether taken directly from a wound or from an engorged tick.
Does this make the Ox-pecker a parasite?