African Honeyguides

Research on a remarkable
human-animal relationship

Honeyguide fieldwork in South Africa

Dec 19, 2020

Chima Nwaogu and Jessica van der Wal with greater honeyguides

Claire and Jessica, together with colleagues Dr Chima Nwaogu and Dr Gabriel Jamie, carried out pilot fieldwork at Honeywood Farm alongside Grootvadersbosch Forest in the southern Cape, South Africa. We were delighted to catch several greater and lesser honeyguides and look forward to returning for further fieldwork. Thank you to John and Miranda Moodie for their warm welcome to work on their beautiful farm. It was thrilling to see so many honeyguides so close to our home base at the University of Cape Town (and to be doing fieldwork again)!

Here Chima holds one of the young greater honeyguides we caught, in their distinctive bright yellow immature plumage.

















Honey-hunting Research Network workshop

The Honey-hunting Research Network (coordinated by Jessica van der Wal) met in Cape Town for a very enjoyable week of analysing and comparing interview data from honey-hunting cultures across Africa, painting a picture of the human cultural variation relevant to honeyguides, and its uncertain future on a rapidly changing continent. Joining in person were Wiro-Bless Kamboe, Rochelle Mphetlhe, George M’manga, Sanele Nhlabatsi, Daniella Mhangwana, Celiwe Ngcamphalala, Claire Spottiswoode and Jessica van der Wal. Thank you to the Cultural Evolution Society Transformation Fund for funding our get-together!

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New paper on human-honeyguide cooperation and communication

A new study from the Honeyguide Research Project shows that Greater Honeyguides learn the distinct calls that honey-hunters in different parts of Africa use to communicate with them, facilitating cooperation between species. Human honey-hunters signal to honeyguides using specialised calls that vary culturally across Africa. The new study shows using field experiments in Mozambique and Tanzania that honeyguides prefer the specialised calls of the local human culture they interact with, compared to those of a foreign culture. This implies that honeyguides can adjust to human cultural diversity, increasing the benefits of cooperation for both people and birds.

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