honeyguide


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honeyguide

honeyguide, small plainly colored Old World bird of the family Indicatoridae, known for its habit of leading man and some lower animals (notably the honey badger) to the nests of wild bees. Honeyguides are native to Africa, the Himalayas, and the East Indies. The largest and best-known species is the 8-in. long (20-cm) black-throated African honeyguide, Indicator indicator. It leads tribespeople to bees' nests, waits for them to open the hive, and then feeds on bits of honeycomb, bees, and larvae; it has special bacteria in its stomach to aid in the digestion of beeswax. Honeyguides lay their eggs in the nests of hole-nesting birds and the young, on hatching, kill their nest mates with special needle-sharp bill hooks; they are then able to consume all the food brought by their foster parents. Honeyguides are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Aves, order Piciformes, family Indicatoridae.
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Honeyguides associate Yao hunter-gatherers' distinctive honey-hunting call with successful joint food hunts, Spottiswoode says.
"Angry bees can and do sting honeyguides to death," Spottiswoode says.
After removing honeycombs from nests, the Yao leave beeswax behind for the honeyguides and even put wax chunks on beds of leaves to reward their avian helpers.
So humans and honeyguides may have hunted together for at least that long, says Harvard University biological anthropologist Richard Wrangham.
In different parts of Africa, honeyguides respond to local honey-hunting calls of human groups, Spottiswoode suspects.
Hadza honey seekers believe this keeps honeyguides hungry and motivates them to lead further hunts.
The new study "carefully documents one cultural tradition in how people and honeyguides interact," Wood says.
The researchers tracked movements of six honeyguides fitted with radio transmitters.
They recorded the honey-hunting call used by the Yao and along with two other testing sounds, played them back in the wild where honeyguide birds were found.
Honeyguide Camp is in the Manyeleti Game Reserve and can be contacted on (27) 11 341 0282.
According to ornithologist William Shileds of Syracuse (N.Y.) University, honeyguides have been guiding honey badgers even longer than they have been guiding humans.
(1989) "Honeyguides and Honey Gatherers: Interspecific Communication in a Symbiotic Relationship." Science, 243:1343-1346.