Wildlife Vampires – Part 3
Oxpeckers and Vampire Finches
There are several bird species that form symbiotic relationships with larger animals. The larger animals tolerate the birds’ presence on their bodies, leaving the birds free to feast upon ticks and other parasites that are lodged in the skin feeding upon the animals’ blood. It’s a win-win situation. But oxpeckers are birds that take it one step further. Not only do they feed upon parasitic invertebrates, they are happy to consume bits of flesh and blood of their host animals while they’re at it.
Vampire finches inhabit the Galapagos Islands and supplement their diet of seeds, insects and nectar with the blood of other birds, usually the blue-footed booby. They peck a hole in the flesh of the booby to get the larger bird’s blood and strangely, the boobies hardly seem to notice.
Few animals evoke the “icky-creepies” in people as much as worms do with their slimy squirminess and their faceless, legless bodies. When such a creature also feeds upon human blood, it only adds to the horror factor. Such is the case with leeches.
These parasitic worms attach themselves to their host and bloat themselves on blood. While most leeches are external parasites, some species will swim into nasal cavities and stay there, feeding and growing. Capable of holding undigested blood in their stomachs, parasitic leeches can go months between feedings.
Oxpecker Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/arnolouise/