Sunday, 13 March 2011

Greater honeyguide

Indicator indicator

Common name:
greater honeyguide (en); indicador-grande (pt); grand indicateur (fr); indicador grande (es); schwarzkehl-honiganzeiger (de)

Order Piciformes
Family Indicatoridae

This African species is found throughout most of sub-Saharan Africa, from Senegal through the Sahel to Ethiopia, then south through the great lakes region and into Angola, Botswana, Mozambique and South Africa.

The greater honeyguide is 18-20 cm long and weighs 50 g.

They are found in a wide range of habitats, such as woodlands, savanna, fynbos, grassland, riverine forest and rarely in miombo and Baikaiea plurijuga forests.

The greater honeyguide feeds primarily on the contents of bee colonies, including eggs, larvae, pupae, waxworms and beeswax. They also eat other insects including termites, ants, moths and beetles. Like certain other honeyguides, they are known to guides mammals to bees nests, after which they scavange the remains for food. Interestingly, they are only known to guide humans, although it is possible they also guide honey badgers Mellivora capensis.

This species is a brood parasite, laying their eggs in the nests of other birds, namely barbets. The host, thinking that the egg is its own, incubates the egg and cares for the chick. Among the host species are also woodpeckers, hoopoes and wood-hoopoes, kingfishers, bee-eaters, tits, swallows and martins, ant-chats, starlings and sparrows. The egg-laying season is in September-January, peaking in September-October, and the females lay series of 4-7 eggs, each in a different nest, laying about 21 eggs in the whole breeding season. The chicks stays in the nest for roughly 38 days, after which they are fed by the host for another 7-30 days.

IUCN status - LC (Least concern)
Although the global population size has not been quantified, the species is reported to be fairly common and widespread throughout its extremely large breeding range. The population is suspected to be increasing as ongoing habitat degradation is creating new areas of suitable habitat.

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