Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Show Me The Way Mr. Honeyguide!

Have you ever heard of a bird called a Greater Honeyguide? I had heard of the Honeyguide (Indicatoridae) family in passing, but I didn't know much about them. I knew they lived in Africa and Asia, but that's about it. After listening to a recent edition of BirdNote, I learned a whole lot more.

The Greater Honeyguide (Indicator indicator), is the standout member of the family and the impetus for the family's name. They feed primarily on the contents of bee hives. And how do they get access to these bee hives? Check this out... the birds call loudly and flash their wings and tails to draw the attention of native honey-hunters. The bird then flies to a hive that it has previously scoped out and calls continuously. The honey-hunters follow the birds to a hive, smoke out the bees, and chop up the hive to take the honeycomb, leaving the rest for the bird to eat. How cool is that? Research suggests that this bird may also guide Honey Badgers and Baboons, but their is also research stating to the contrary.

One other honeyguide species, the Scaly-throated Honeyguide, may also "guide" people to honey, but some biologists disagree with this. The remaining honeyguide species are named due to relation only.

8 comments:

Mike said...

There's a great kid's book called Honey... Honey... Lion! that focuses on the relationship of the honeyguide and honey badger. Mason loves it and if I ever get around to it, I plan to write about it.

Patrick Belardo said...

That is too cool Mike!

Jochen said...

Honeyguides are NOT cool!
I saw quite a few of them in Namibia/Botswana and they NEVER guided me ANYWHERE!

Patrick Belardo said...

Jochen, you must not have been giving off that "native honey hunter" vibe.

Owlman said...

Jochen, the hunter is supposed to share some honey with the Honeyguide after a successful 'hunting' expedition. Maybe the last guy forgot to share with your Honeyguide ;-) I was lucky enough to see quite a few in South Africa -cool birds. I'm thinking about writing a few posts about Southern African birds just not sure if anyone would be interested.....

Patrick Belardo said...

I don't think anyone would mind reading about South African birds. It's not a topic I've seen posted about much.

Jochen said...

Hi Owlman!!
Writing about South Africa is always a winner, go for it!
And about the Honeyguides... well, okay, I think I simply overestimated their willingness or ability to cooperate.
As some of you may have guessed, of course I didn't ask them to guide me to something I can buy at any groceries store for an apple and an egg (as we say in German, meaning for very little money). Quite possibly they simply didn't know what I meant when I asked to be guided to Rufous-vented Tits, Dwarf Bitterns and Rock Pratincoles.
I had thought they'd be smarter than that, but well, they ain't Ravens after all, right?

Susan Gets Native said...

I first read about honeyguides in a James Michner book. (The Source) Learned about hoopoes, too.

And a bird name that makes sense...the latin name indicator indicator. I'd call that accurate.