Lessons in Love
The Honey-guide bird
Prodotiscus Insignis love
honey but it needs help!
Then flies ahead, toward the bees' nest, making sure the
badger is following.
Powerful yet gentle...
Graceful yet effortless
A love call
That it floats
Each note expressing
the badger tears open the bees' nest and feast on the bees' wax,
honey, and larvae --making sure some are left over for its
loyal referral--the honeyguide bird.
Honeyguide birds are named for a remarkable habit seen in one or two species: they guide large mammals like "Ratel or baboons" to bee colonies.
Once the mammal opens the hive and takes the honey, the bird feeds on the remaining wax and larvae.
Honey-guide are birds in the genus Prodotiscus of the honey-guide family that feed regularly on bee eggs, larvae, pupae, wax worms, beeswax, caterpillars of Galleria mellonella, spiders, flying and crawling insects.
Honey-guides are among the few birds that can digest wax. They also scavenges and feeds at abandoned hives raided by other animals (African bees abandon their hives more often than those of the temperate zones).
Honey-guides are confined to Sub-Saharan Africa with a few species in Asia and they are also known as indicator birds or honeybirds.
Honey-guide birds are almost all drab colored birds, with a few species having some bright yellow in the plumage with white, light colored outer tail feathers.
There are basically three species:
The Green-backed Honeybird Prodotsicus zambesiae and...
The Cassin's Honeybird Prodotiscus insignis
The honey guide gets its name from two African species, the black-throated honeyguide (Indicator indicator) and the scaly-throated honeyguide (Indicator variegatus).
The bird eats the wax and bee larvae left behind by mammals that has attacked the hive to take the honey because its symbiotic stomach bacteria enable it to digest beeswax, honey guides are the only vertebrate known to do it.
What does Mellivora mean?
Ratel genus scientific name; Mellivora is derived from the Latin words mel or mellis (honey) and voro (devour), hence "honey eater".
guiding bird exhibit a unique pattern of
behavior: the bird leads a Ratel (honey
badger) to a bees' nest by its chattering and flying ahead;
Attracts attention with wavering, chattering "tya" notes compounded with "peeps or pipes" sounds and flies toward an occupied hive and then stops and calls again as the same time make an eye-catching spreading tail, showing the white spots and a "bounding, upward flight to a perch".
The breeding behavior of eight species in Indicator and Prodotiscus are all brood parasites that lay one egg per nest of others hole-nesting species birds for them to act as foster parent.
Usually, the young of the brood parasites are larger than the young of the nest parent, therefore out-compete them for food from the parent.
Brood parasite is a term specifically applied to birds or insects that leave their eggs in the nests of other birds or insects to be raised.
This relieves the parent from the investment of rearing young thereby enabling them to feed only themselves and to lay more eggs.
Honeyguides hatchling have been known to physically kick the host young chicks out of the nest with their pair of temporary hooked beaks...
...which also used to puncture the hosts' eggs or to kill and injure the host's young hatchlings by repeated lacerating them to their deaths, so that only the parasite honey-guide hatchling are in the nest.
The Ratel (Mellivora capensis), known as the Honey Badger has a very distinctive appearance thanks to the stark contrast between the white fur on its upper parts and the dark coloration underneath with fearsome front claws and tremendous strength make it a very efficient digger, a talent it uses both in digging up dung beetles for food and burrowing for shelter.
Honey badgers is a member of the Mustelidae family, they are well adapted for digging, and excavates burrows of 1 - 3 meters in length, to depths of 0.25 to 1.5 meters. It is the only species classified in the genus Mellivora and the subfamily Mellivorinae.
Honey badgers are found across most of Africa and the near East extending through most of sub-Saharan Africa from the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa to southern Morocco and south western Algeria, and outside of Africa through Arabia, Iran and western Asia to Turkmenistan and the Indian peninsula.
Honey badgers distribution from southern Africa to India as a single species is exceptional, there is just one species of honey badger, Mellivora capensis.
They live in a wide variety of habitats from the dense rain forests of Zaire to the arid deserts on the outskirts of the Sahara and pro-Namib, from sea level to above 4000 meters on the afro-alpine steppes in the Bale Mountains of Ethiopia.The Ratel adult body weights vary from 5.5 to 14 kg (15-29lb) with body length 60-77cm (83.5-30in).
a striking combination of silvery grey or whitish upperparts from the
top of the head across the back to the base of the tail and black or
dark brown sides and under-parts.
In the southern Kalahari study, honey badgers are generalist carnivores with an extremely wide diet, they caught more than 80% of their prey through digging, and small mammals and small reptiles were the most common prey items caught.
The honey badger is largely carnivorous, though it will feed on fruits and other vegetable matter on occasion. Honey badgers are basically solitary animals, largely active at dusk and during the night, with daytime activity not uncommon in undisturbed areas and in the vicinity of the den.
Most sightings of "pairs" of honey badgers are in fact observations of mothers with their young. Honey badgers can also been together in places where food supplies are abundant.
They locate their prey by their acute sense of smell and catch most of their prey through digging. As many as fifty holes may be dug in a single foraging period and badgers may cover distances that exceed 40 kilometers in a 24 hour period.
It appears that the honey badger travels widely over its range, rarely occupying the same hole for more than one night and of 139 burrows recorded, 34.5% had been dug by a badger that day, 28% were old badger holes being re-used, and 37.5% were holes dug by other animals and modified by the badgers for their use.
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