Week in Geek: Avian vampires edition

Yellow-billed Oxpecker (Buphagus africanus)

Your choice of vampire Halloween costumes just got more interesting: vampire birds are a thing and they sound kind of terrifying.

With the exception of Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds,” I can really think of any other instances where smaller, everyday birds are painted as the terrifying predator. But now that I’ve learned about vampire finches and oxpeckers, I might never look at my backyard the same.

Vampire finch (Peter Wilton/Flickr)

Let’s start with the vampire finches first. They are flying bloodsuckers with razor sharp beaks which they use to stab the necks of their victims so they can quench their evil thirsts. Vampire finches actually feed mostly on OTHER BIRDS that for some reason let them. Luckily they can only be found in the Galapagos Islands (for now), but they don’t sound like anything I’d want migrating towards the mainland anytime soon.

And now the oxpeckers. These equally smallish birds inhabit deserts and seem just as nefarious as their island brethren. Scientists used to think oxpeckers had more of a mutual relationship with other species; namely they would hang around herds of savannah mammals and eat their ticks and parasites. However, it turns out they don’t always stop pecking after consuming the external pest, but they continue to peck away at the host itself.

To learn more about these terrifying species and watch a video of oxpeckers going to town on a giraffe, check out this piece by Jason Bittel.

Here are some more geek from the week:

Keep on geeking!

@Summer_Ash, In-house Astrophysicist

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Week in Geek: Avian vampires edition