name = Honeyguides
regnum = Animalia
phylum = Chordata
classis = Aves
ordo = Piciformes
familia = Indicatoridae
familia_authority = Swainson, 1837
subdivision_ranks = Genera
subdivision = "Indicator"

Honeyguides, (family Indicatoridae), are near passerine bird species of the order Piciformes. They are also known as indicator birds, or honey birds, although the latter term is also used more narrowly to refer to species of the genus "Prodotiscus". They have an Old World tropical distribution, with the greatest number of species in Africa and two in Asia.


Most honeyguides are dull-colored, though a few have bright yellow in the plumage. All have light outer tail feathers, which are white in all the African species.

They are among the few birds that feed regularly on wax—beeswax in most species, and presumably the waxy secretions of scale insects in the genus "Prodotiscus" and to a lesser extent in "Melignomon" and the smaller species of "Indicator". They also feed on the larvae and on waxworms (caterpillars of "Galleria mellonella") in bee colonies, and on flying and crawling insects, spiders, and occasional fruits. Many species join mixed-species feeding flocks.

Honeyguides are named for a remarkable habit seen in one or two species: they guide humans, and possibly other large mammals (such as the Ratel {honey badger}), to bee colonies. Once the mammal opens the hive and takes the honey, the bird feeds on the remaining wax and larvae. This behavior is well studied in the Greater Honeyguide; some authorities (following Friedmann, 1955) state that it also occurs in the Scaly-throated Honeyguide, while others disagree (Short and Horne, 2002).

Although most members of the family are not known to recruit "followers" in their quest for wax, they are also referred to as "honeyguides" by linguistic extrapolation.

The breeding behavior of eight species in "Indicator" and "Prodotiscus" is known. They are all brood parasites that lay one egg in a nest of another species, laying eggs in series of about five during five to seven days. Most favor hole-nesting species, often the related barbets and woodpeckers, but "Prodotiscus" parasitizes cup-nesters such as white-eyes and warblers. Honeyguide nestlings have been known to physically eject their host's chicks from the nest, and they have hooks on their beaks with which they puncture the hosts' eggs or kill the nestlings, by repeated lacerations if not in a fatal stab.cite book |editor=Forshaw, Joseph|author= Short, Lester L.|year=1991|title=Encyclopaedia of Animals: Birds|publisher= Merehurst Press|location=London|pages= 155|isbn= 1-85391-186-0]


Seventeen species in four genera compose the Indicatoridae.

* Genus: "Indicator"
** Spotted Honeyguide, "Indicator maculatus"
** Scaly-throated Honeyguide, "Indicator variegatus"
** Greater Honeyguide, "Indicator indicator"
** Malaysian Honeyguide, "Indicator archipelagicus"
** Lesser Honeyguide, "Indicator minor"
** Thick-billed Honeyguide, "Indicator conirostris"
** Willcocks's Honeyguide, "Indicator willcocksi"
** Least Honeyguide, "Indicator exilis"
** Dwarf Honeyguide, "Indicator pumilio"
** Pallid Honeyguide, "Indicator meliphilus"
** Yellow-rumped Honeyguide, "Indicator xanthonotus"
* Genus: "Melichneutes"
** Lyre-tailed Honeyguide, "Melichneutes robustus"
* Genus: "Melignomon"
** Yellow-footed Honeyguide, "Melignomon eisentrauti"
** Zenker's Honeyguide, "Melignomon zenkeri"
* Genus: "Prodotiscus"
** Cassin's Honeyguide, "Prodotiscus insignis"
** Green-backed Honeyguide, "Prodotiscus zambesiae"
** Wahlberg's Honeyguide, "Prodotiscus regulus"



External links

* [http://ibc.hbw.com/ibc/phtml/familia.phtml?idFamilia=102 Barbet videos] on the Internet Bird Collection
* [http://montereybay.com/creagrus/honeyguides.html Don Roberson's Bird Families of the World]

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Look at other dictionaries:

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  • honeyguide — [hun′ē gīd΄] n. any of a family (Indicatoridae) of small, heavily built, drab colored piciform birds of Africa, Asia, and the East Indies: they are said to lead people or animals to bees nests in order to eat the grubs and wax discarded by the… …   English World dictionary

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  • honeyguide — noun Date: 1777 any of a family (Indicatoridae) of small plainly colored nonpasserine birds that inhabit Africa, the Himalayas, and the East Indies and that include some which lead people or animals to the nests of bees …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • honeyguide — noun Any of several Old World tropical birds, of the family Indicatoridae, that feed on honey or beeswax …   Wiktionary

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