The oxpeckers are two species of bird which make up the family Buphagidae. The oxpeckers were formerly usually treated as a subfamily, Buphaginae, within the starling family, Sturnidae, but molecular phylogenetic studies have consistently shown that they form a separate lineage that is basal to the sister clades containing the Sturnidae and the Mimidae (mockingbirds, thrashers, and allies). Oxpeckers are endemic to the savanna of Sub-Saharan Africa.
Both the English and scientific names arise from their habit of perching on large mammals (both wild and domesticated) such as cattle, zebras, impalas, hippopotamuses, rhinoceroses, and giraffes, eating ticks, small insects, botfly larvae, and other parasites, as well as the animals' blood. The behaviour of oxpeckers towards large mammals was previously thought to be an example of mutualism, though recent research suggests the relationship is parasitic in nature.
The swahili name for the red-billed oxpecker is Askari wa kifaru (the rhino's guard).
The oxpeckers are endemic to sub-Saharan Africa, where they occur in most open habitats. They are absent from the driest deserts and the rainforests. Their distribution is restricted by the presence of their preferred prey, specific species of ticks, and the animal hosts of those ticks. The two species of oxpecker are sympatric over much of East Africa and may even occur on the same host animal. The nature of the interactions between the two species is unknown.