African Honeyguides

Research on a remarkable
human-animal relationship

Honeyguide fieldwork in Niassa

Oct 8, 2021

David arrives at Mariri, January 2021

David had a very successful field trip to our honeyguide study site in the Niassa Special Reserve, Mozambique, where as well as collecting data he was able to celebrate a fourth year of collaboration with our honey-hunter colleagues at our end of year ‘festa’. On this trip David was accompanied by Tom Bachmann – a masters student at Wageningen University – who has been providing valuable help with data checking and field assistance. The ‘segos’ (greater honeyguides) in the area were as eager to guide as always, and Tom and David collected data from more than thirty guiding trips. Some of the honeyguides which took them and their Mozambican honey-hunter colleagues to bees were known birds which were colour-ringed on previous trips, indicating that birds in our study population are still thriving!


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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