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  Lessons in Love

The Honey-guide bird
Prodotiscus Insignis love
honey but it needs help!
Cassin Honey bird Prodotiscus insignis

Guide Jamie
The Honey guide bird
goes looking for assistance from the "Ratel"--honey badger Mellivora Capensis

Honeyguide birds
exhibit a unique pattern by calling out loudly and chattering that attracts the badger's attention.

Then flies ahead, toward the bees' nest, making sure the badger is following.


beauty with grace...

 Powerful yet gentle...

 Graceful yet effortless

A love call
so beautiful and pure...

That it floats
effortlessly with richness

power to attract...

Each note expressing
details of emotion...

the senses of love...

On arrival, 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:

Honey-guide are almost all drab colored birds The Brown-backed Honeybird Prodotiscus regulus

Green-backed Honeybird Prodotsicus zambesiae and...

Cassin's Honeybird Prodotiscus insignis

Green backed Honey bird Prodotsicus zambesiaeThe 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?A Ratel (honey badger)
Ratel is the Afrikaans
name for the honey badger
-- derived from the Dutch word for a honey comb, raat.

Ratel genus scientific name; Mellivora is derived from the Latin words mel or mellis (honey) and voro (devour), hence "honey eater".

  A honeyguide, 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.


means that the species was named for its presence in the Cape Province of South Africa, ensis being Latin for "belonging to".

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.Honey badger (Ratel)The Ratel adult body weights vary from 5.5 to 14 kg (15-29lb) with body length 60-77cm (83.5-30in).

Their body color is 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.

Honey guide bird Prodotiscus Insignis
<<The honeyguide bird has a habit of leading Ratels to bees' nests. The Ratel (Mellivora capensis) have a great appetite for ravaging beehives.

When a Ratel breaks into the nest, the birds take their share of wax and bee larvae left behind.

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.

Honey badgers are accomplished climbers and can easily climb up into the uppermost branches of trees to raid bird nests or bee hives.

They have been seen raiding raptor nests, including the Pale Chanting Goshawk which is frequently seen in association with badgers.

Africa's most fiercest and fearless animal hunters of the desert listed as the "most fearless animal in the world" in the 2002 Guinness Book of Records is "The Honey badger or Ratel".

Ratel prey includes; worms, termites, scorpions, porcupines, hares and even snakes with a reputation as a fearless creature, it regularly eats poisonous snakes.

Tales of their fondness for honey and the foraging association raiding the nests of bees for honey between the Greater Honeyguide and honey badgers are legendary.

Badgers eat a host of smaller food items like insect larvae, beetles, scorpions, lizards, rodents, birds, small mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish, carrion, invertebrates and Honey.

Ratels will catch larger reptiles like leguaans, crocodiles (1 meter) and pythons (3meters) and include the highly venomous adders, cobras and black mamba in their diet. Larger mammals like the Springhare, polecat and particularly juvenile foxes, jackals, antelope and wild cats, are also caught.
Honey Badger (Ratel) Mellivora skin is so tough that wild dogs bites could hardly make an impression.

They can twist about in its skin to bite an adversary that has seized it by the back of the neck.

Porcupine quills and bee stings have little effect, and snake fangs are rarely able to penetrate.

Mellivora seems to be devoid of fear and may rush out from its burrow and charge an intruder that has severely wounded horses, antelope, cattle, and even buffalo have been attacked in this manner.

Honey badgers are very aggressive animals, and have few predators their skin are very thick and rubbery. They also have very strong jaws with which to bite back!

They are heavily built, and have a broad head with small eyes, no external ears, and a relatively blunt snout.

The legs are short, but the forelegs are well-developed, and the fore feet are equipped with strong claws which can be up to 40mm long.

Colleen and Keith Begg study in South Africa has shed some light on patterns of den usage by these animals.

Their intensive study of honey badgers of South Africa's Kalahari Gemsbok National Park, have reported that honey badger activity is mainly nocturnal during the summer, but switches to being mainly diurnal during the winter.



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