Greater honeyguide

Indicator indicator

TAXONOMY

Indicator indicator Sparrman, 1777. OTHER COMMON NAMES

English: Black-throated honeyguide; French: Grand Indicateur; German: Schwarzkehl-Honiganzer; Spanish: Indicador de Garganta Negra.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

Up to 8 in (20 cm). Sexes show only minor differences; male is olive-brown on the crown, nape, wings and dorsal surface; black throat patch extends up around the eyes in a mask. Yellowish patch on cheek area, another on the wing where it meets the shoulder at rest; underparts are whitish with some grayish touches. Bill is yellow and pink. Female is more brownish and lacks throat and cheek patches. As in most hon-eyguides, the outer retrices of the tail are white in both sexes and are shown to advantage in flight.

DISTRIBUTION

Nearly all tropical and temperate Africa south of the Sahara; the most widely distributed species.

HABITAT

Dense bush country, grasslands with scattered trees and bushes, and dense forest, from sea level to 8,000 ft (2,438 m) above sea level. They prefer territory with large resident aard-vark (Oryctoperus afer) population. Ratels shelter in aardvark

burrows, while bee-eaters (Melittophagus spp.), ant-eating chats (Myrmecochlica spp.), and swallows, all parasitized by the greater (and other) honeyguides, nest in the roofs of the burrows.

BEHAVIOR

Large for a honeyguide, lively and aggressive. Individuals patrol known territories, visiting and spot-checking bee nests, and keeping their senses alert for new ones. They will also follow humans and visit human campsites, not always for beckoning and guiding. The male's most oft-heard call is "vic-tor," repeated from six to 11 times in rapid staccato, perching erect with throat feathers slightly puffed out.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Diet is typically wax, bee larvae, other insects, and spiders. Greater honeyguides and scaly-throated honeyguides are the only species known to guide animals, including humans, to honey sources.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Males put on aerial attraction displays for females, simplified versions of the lyre-tailed honeyguide's performance. The greater honeyguide male may also put on an act wherein he circles around and above a female, making drumming sounds with his wings. The male will alight on a branch near the perching female, then slowly approach her, spreading his white-bordered tail, fluttering his wings, puffing his feathers, and making a low, "chrrr" call. Females parasitize at least 40 species, including barbets, kingfishers, bee-eaters, hoopoes, and woodpeckers.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Not threatened.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

Helps humans secure a treasured food and plays a significant role in folklore. ♦

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