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Indicatoridae – Honeyguides

Lesser Honeyguide in South Africa: Photo by Maryse Neukomm

Indicatoridae, a family of small passerine birds, includes the honeyguides. These birds are primarily found in sub-Saharan Africa, where they are known for their unique behavior of guiding humans and other animals to bee nests.

Overview of Indicatoridae

Honeyguides employ a cunning reproductive strategy, laying their eggs in the nests of barbets, kingfishers, and other cavity-nesting birds. Upon hatching, the young honeyguides wield hooks on their bills to eliminate their nest-mates, ensuring their own survival from the start. While they receive a varied diet from their surrogate parents, honeyguides adopt a lifelong preference for honey, beeswax, and insects post-fledging. Among them, the largest species, Greater Honeyguide (Indicator indicator), has developed a remarkable behavior of leading large mammals, including humans, to bee hives, where it indulges in the spoils after the mammals depart. With modest plumage and inconspicuous behavior, honeyguides adeptly blend into their surroundings near their potential hosts.