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Honeyguides: Indicatoridae

Behavior And Reproduction

The behavior of honeyguides makes them one of the most interesting birds to watch, especially the way they eat beeswax and actually lead other animals to wax sources. They are also aggressive birds in that they harass other birds and mob around wax sources. They are solitary birds most of the time, although when foraging for food, dozens of honeyguides may show up at a wax source. Many species will fly around human settlements (such as campgrounds) hoping to find food.

All honeyguides sing, except for one species. Their singing consists of a wide variety of sounds that are sung for particular situations. While singing, the birds also arch their necks, fluff out rump feathers (and other feathers), and quiver the tail. The rustling sound of waving wings is often heard with aggression or mating sounds. White tail bars are often displayed while the birds fly. They have strong wings that allow them to do complicated maneuvers in the air. For courtship, males sing and make aerial displays directed toward females.

All honeyguides are brood parasites, meaning that females lay fertile eggs among the eggs of other bird species in order for the nesting birds to incubate their eggs. Honeyguides do not build nests and are unable to raise their own young. Most female honeyguides lay about six eggs, but will leave only one or two eggs per nest. The female honeyguide invades a nest while the parents are gone, deposits a white thick-shelled egg (blue in one species), sometimes punctures or removes a host's egg, and leaves within seconds. All host nests are in cavities, such as in trees, in the ground, in termite mounds, or in ant nests. The most frequently used host birds are barbets, tinkerbirds, kingfishers, bee-eaters, hoopoes, and woodpeckers. When honeyguides are born, they break host eggs that have not hatched or kill host hatchlings with their hooked bills and claws. Their breeding season is tied to the breeding season of their host species. The incubation period (time to sit on eggs before hatching) is twelve to thirteen days and the nestling period (time to take care of young unable to leave nest) is thirty-eight to forty days.

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceBirdsHoneyguides: Indicatoridae - Physical Characteristics, Diet, Behavior And Reproduction, Malaysian Honeyguide (indicator Archipelagicus): Species Accounts - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, HONEYGUIDES AND PEOPLE, CONSERVATION STATUS