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Monday, December 20, 2021

Honeyguides and Honeybirds of Southern Africa

Honeyguide, Honeybird, Forest bird, Birdsong, Greater Honeyguide, Scaly Throated Honeyguide, Lesser Honey Guide, Brown-backed Honeyguide
(Greater Honeyguide male on his song post, Atlantis: Dassenberg Road) 


Family indicatoridae:


With seven species found in Southern Africa, in the Western Cape, we have four mostly resident species. Within the family, a distinction should be made between the larger Indicator genus (11 species, four of which occur in Southern Africa) and the smaller Prodotiscus genus (two of three which occur locally)

 


Honeyguide, Honeybird, Forest bird, Birdsong, Greater Honeyguide, Scaly Throated Honeyguide, Lesser Honey Guide, Brown-backed Honeyguide
Image Credit: Faansie Peacock Chamberlains LBJs


Honeyguide, Honeybird, Forest bird, Birdsong, Greater Honeyguide, Scaly Throated Honeyguide, Lesser Honey Guide, Brown-backed Honeyguide
(Greater Honeyguide male on his song post, Atlantis: Dassenberg Road, calling incessantly, remarkable to watch) 

Their name is derived from the Greater Honeyguide's remarkable ability in guiding man to beehives. They benefit from humans opening the hive, thereby giving them access to beeswax, pupae, and eggs.


Another fascinating behaviour of the Honeyguide is that they are brood parasites. They do not build nests or raise their young but delegate this to host species. The larger Honeyguides choose to parasitise species that nest in cavities in trees or earth banks, including, Barbets, Kingfishers, Bee-eaters and a host of others. 


An extraordinary sense of smell helps them locate beehives, bacteria excreted from the stomach, and efficiently digest beeswax.



Honeyguide, Honeybird, Forest bird, Birdsong, Greater Honeyguide, Scaly Throated Honeyguide, Lesser Honey Guide, Brown-backed Honeyguide
(Greater Honeyguide male on his song post, Atlantis: Dassenberg Road) 


Honeyguide, Honeybird, Forest bird, Birdsong, Greater Honeyguide, Scaly Throated Honeyguide, Lesser Honey Guide, Brown-backed Honeyguide
(Greater Honeyguide male on his song post, Atlantis: Dassenberg Road) 


We have seven species in Southern Africa; all are resident and can often be found at favourite song posts throughout the year. A simple but distinctive and far-carrying song that aids in their identification.



Honeyguide, Honeybird, Forest bird, Birdsong, Greater Honeyguide, Scaly Throated Honeyguide, Lesser Honey Guide, Brown-backed Honeyguide
(Greater Honeyguide male on his song post, Atlantis: Dassenberg Road) 


Honeyguide, Honeybird, Forest bird, Birdsong, Greater Honeyguide, Scaly Throated Honeyguide, Lesser Honey Guide, Brown-backed Honeyguide
Image Credit: Faansie Peacock Chamberlains LBJs


Large Honeyguide: Greater Honeyguide, found in various wooded habitats including savanna, woodland, forest edge, ravine strips, plantations and gardens. Scaly-throated limited to riverine, coastal and evergreen forests and mature woodland.


Greater Honeyguide (Indicator indicator) Afrikaans: Groot Heuningwyser


Honeyguide, Honeybird, Forest bird, Birdsong, Greater Honeyguide, Scaly Throated Honeyguide, Lesser Honey Guide, Brown-backed Honeyguide
Image Credit: Faansie Peacock Chamberlains LBJs


After Receiving reliable confirmation of an incessant calling Greater Honeyguide from one of our top birders in the Cape (Trevor Hardaker), this was our best opportunity to connect with this fascinating bird. Luck was on our side when we stopped at the Pin provided; the bird was in full song. It took us a while to finally locate the Honeyguide on his calling post in a large tree. It was exciting to witness the continuous calling of this male bird while admiring the fine plumage and bright coloured pink bill.


  






Honeyguide, Honeybird, Forest bird, Birdsong, Greater Honeyguide, Scaly Throated Honeyguide, Lesser Honey Guide, Brown-backed Honeyguide
( Scaly Throated Honeyguide, Natures Valley: Garden Route)


Scaly Throated Honeyguide (Indicator variegatus) Afrikaans: Gevlekte Heuningwyser



As in the case of other Honeyguides, this species well-developed sense of smell assists in locating beehives and may travel up to 5km from its song post.


Uncommon to fairly common but localised resident. They are easily overlooked unless calling; this bird is solitary. Like most Honeyguides, they will sing from a high branch below the canopy, intermittently switching to a new perch. Can be pretty secretive and elusive, but very inquisitive: will quietly approach humans and watch from the shadows.


 Will eat bees pupae, larvae and wax, other insects, fruit and seeds. Known to parasitises Barbets and Woodpeckers. The male song is a strange, eerie purring trill that sounds insect-like.



Honeyguide, Honeybird, Forest bird, Birdsong, Greater Honeyguide, Scaly Throated Honeyguide, Lesser Honey Guide, Brown-backed Honeyguide
( Scaly Throated Honeyguide, Natures Valley: Garden Route)


Honeyguide, Honeybird, Forest bird, Birdsong, Greater Honeyguide, Scaly Throated Honeyguide, Lesser Honey Guide, Brown-backed Honeyguide
( Scaly Throated Honeyguide, Natures Valley: Garden Route)


While visiting the Garden Route, we met up with one of the local birding guides (Ian Pletzer: Plett Birding), who assisted us in locating some of the trickier forest species.


Natures Valley(Sanparks) proved to be a haven for unique forest birds, including the shy Scaly Throated Honeyguide. Happy to connect with this timid forest bird and exhilarated that we could capture some images of this particular forest bird. 


Honeyguide, Honeybird, Forest bird, Birdsong, Greater Honeyguide, Scaly Throated Honeyguide, Lesser Honey Guide, Brown-backed Honeyguide
Image Credit: Faansie Peacock Chamberlains LBJs


Small Honeyguides: Easily overlooked even where common, lesser Honeyguide, widespread: woodland, riverine bush, forest edges, thickets, parks and gardens. Pallid Honeyguide is very localised: forest edges, secondary growth and woodland.


Honeyguide, Honeybird, Forest bird, Birdsong, Greater Honeyguide, Scaly Throated Honeyguide, Lesser Honey Guide, Brown-backed Honeyguide
(Lesser Honeyguide in the forest section at Zewenwacht Wine Estate)



lesser Honeyguide (Indicator minor) Afrikaans: Klein Heuningwyser



Honeyguide, Honeybird, Forest bird, Birdsong, Greater Honeyguide, Scaly Throated Honeyguide, Lesser Honey Guide, Brown-backed Honeyguide
(Lesser Honeyguide in the forest section at Zewenwacht Wine Estate)


Honeyguide, Honeybird, Forest bird, Birdsong, Greater Honeyguide, Scaly Throated Honeyguide, Lesser Honey Guide, Brown-backed Honeyguide
(Lesser Honeyguide in the forest section at Zewenwacht Wine Estate)




We received confirmation of a Lesser Honeyguide visiting a garden in Kuilsriver. We arranged to visit this location, but unfortunately, the bird didn't show. We learnt that this property had a breeding pair of Acacia Pied Barbets, hence the lesser Honeyguide's presence. Other news revealed that a  Lesser Honeyguide was recorded at the Zewenwacht Wine Estate (forest section), encouraged to have captured a few images and a video of this remarkable bird.



Honeyguide, Honeybird, Forest bird, Birdsong, Greater Honeyguide, Scaly Throated Honeyguide, Lesser Honey Guide, Brown-backed Honeyguide
Image Credit: Faansie Peacock Chamberlains LBJs


Honeyguide, Honeybird, Forest bird, Birdsong, Greater Honeyguide, Scaly Throated Honeyguide, Lesser Honey Guide, Brown-backed Honeyguide
(Lesser Honeyguide in the forest section at Zewenwacht Wine Estate)



Honeyguide, Honeybird, Forest bird, Birdsong, Greater Honeyguide, Scaly Throated Honeyguide, Lesser Honey Guide, Brown-backed Honeyguide
( Image co. Jacques Giliomee: Lets Go Birding )



Honeybirds: Small, delicate warbler-or-flycatcher-like birds with a sharp, curved bill. Quiet and mostly overlooked unless displaying. Green-backed found in miombo and teak woodlands. Brown-backed in savanna, woodlands and thickets, often at forest edges or in wattle and other alien trees, in hilly areas.



Honeyguide, Honeybird, Forest bird, Birdsong, Greater Honeyguide, Scaly Throated Honeyguide, Lesser Honey Guide, Brown-backed Honeyguide
(Juvenile Brown-backed Honeybird at Kirstenbosch zone 24 above the Sun shelters)



Brown-backed Honeybird: (Prodotiscus regulus) Afrikaans: Skerpbekheuningvoel



Not closely associated with bees as typical Honeyguides. Forages both low down and in the tree canopy, gleaning scale insects from twigs and bark.

The best way to locate this small, nondescript and unobtrusive parasite is to listen for its sharp insect-like calls given during a spectacular, high-speed aerial chase.



Honeyguide, Honeybird, Forest bird, Birdsong, Greater Honeyguide, Scaly Throated Honeyguide, Lesser Honey Guide, Brown-backed Honeyguide
(Juvenile Brown-backed Honeybird at Kirstenbosch zone 24 above the Sun shelters, host parent Karoo Prinia)


Honeyguide, Honeybird, Forest bird, Birdsong, Greater Honeyguide, Scaly Throated Honeyguide, Lesser Honey Guide, Brown-backed Honeyguide
(Juvenile Brown-backed Honeybird at Kirstenbosch zone 24 above the Sun shelters)


We always knew that the Brown-backed Honeybird would be the hardest to locate out of the four birds resident in the Western Cape. However, armed with a list of known locations to record the BBH, we were ready and eager for the challenge.



Honeyguide, Honeybird, Forest bird, Birdsong, Greater Honeyguide, Scaly Throated Honeyguide, Lesser Honey Guide, Brown-backed Honeyguide
(Juvenile Brown-backed Honeybird at Kirstenbosch zone 24 above the Sun shelters, host parent Karoo Prinia)


Honeyguide, Honeybird, Forest bird, Birdsong, Greater Honeyguide, Scaly Throated Honeyguide, Lesser Honey Guide, Brown-backed Honeyguide
(Juvenile Brown-backed Honeybird at Kirstenbosch zone 24 above the Sun shelters, host parent Karoo Prinia)


Our local birder's information on this bird was to try at Tygerberg Nature Reserve, Silverboom KLoof Natural Heritage Site(Somerset West), Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens and Tokai.

Visiting these locations and spending up to three hours per site yielded no results. Finally, we were becoming desperate, and as luck would have it, a fellow birder sent us some images of a juvenile BBH taken at Kirstenbosch. Success, at last, we found the BBH and better still, we managed to record the host parents feeding this Juvenile Brown-baked Honeybird.


 

Honeyguide, Honeybird, Forest bird, Birdsong, Greater Honeyguide, Scaly Throated Honeyguide, Lesser Honey Guide, Brown-backed Honeyguide
(Image co. Michael Buckham: Adult Brown-backed Honeybird Kenilworth Race Course, Western Cape )


Honeyguide, Honeybird, Forest bird, Birdsong, Greater Honeyguide, Scaly Throated Honeyguide, Lesser Honey Guide, Brown-backed Honeyguide
(Image co. Candice Wharton: Juvenile Brown-backed Honeybird at Kirstenbosch, zone 24 below the Sun shelters)


This find completed our journey of connecting and recording the Honeyguides and Honeybirds found in the Western Cape.

We have learned so much about these birds and have a greater appreciation for this species. We hope and trust you have enjoyed this article and images; follow us on our social platforms for more of our travels and experiences. 






We have always been fascinated by the Honeyguides, but finding one and capturing the bird calls has been incredibly rewarding. The northern sections of Southern Africa will allow us to document the remaining species of Honeybirds; we look forward to this challenge.


This has been a remarkable journey of understanding, learning, and thoroughly enjoyable birding experience in Southern Africa.


I hope you will appreciate the honeyguides/Honeybirds' fascinating bird species and have acquired some knowledge while enjoying this article. 


This find completed our journey of connecting and recording the Honeyguides and Honeybirds found in the Western Cape.

We have learned so much about these birds and have a greater appreciation for this species. 


 I hope you have appreciated the honeyguides/Honeybirds' fascinating bird species and have acquired some knowledge while enjoying this article. 


 Follow us on our social platforms for more of our travels and experiences. 




Honeyguides and Honeybirds: Brood parasites


Images co. Henriette Siebrits (Kuilsriver)


These images reflect the breeding behaviour of the Honeyguides, in this case, the Lesser Honeyguide.


The Male Honeyguide will often distract the Barbet, thus allowing the Female Honeyguide to enter the Barbets nest and lay a single egg. The Honeyguide hatchling will kill the Barbets chick and discard it from the nest. It's a sad story, but it's nature at its best, and we still have so much to learn.



Honeyguide, Honeybird, Forest bird, Birdsong, Greater Honeyguide, Scaly Throated Honeyguide, Lesser Honey Guide, Brown-backed Honeyguide
( Images co. Henriette Siebrits: Kuilsriver )


Honeyguide, Honeybird, Forest bird, Birdsong, Greater Honeyguide, Scaly Throated Honeyguide, Lesser Honey Guide, Brown-backed Honeyguide
( Images co. Henriette Siebrits: Kuilsriver )


Honeyguide, Honeybird, Forest bird, Birdsong, Greater Honeyguide, Scaly Throated Honeyguide, Lesser Honey Guide, Brown-backed Honeyguide
( Images co. Henriette Siebrits: Kuilsriver )


Honeyguide, Honeybird, Forest bird, Birdsong, Greater Honeyguide, Scaly Throated Honeyguide, Lesser Honey Guide, Brown-backed Honeyguide
( Images co. Henriette Siebrits: Kuilsriver )


Flock Together

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