Magazine article Science News

Honey Hunters Follow Birds to Reach Bees

Magazine article Science News

Honey Hunters Follow Birds to Reach Bees

Article excerpt

Honey hunters follow birds to reach bees

When the Boran people of Kenya find a bees' nest full of honey, they say a little bird told them about it. For years these nomadic people have claimed that the African honeyguide, Indicator indicator, uses flight patterns and calls to guide them to bees' nests. The bird then gets to eat a bit of the otherwise inaccessible honey.

Now, for the first time, ornithologists have confirmed these claims. H.A. Isack of the National Musum of Kenya and H.-U. Reyer of the Max-Planck Institute in Seewiesen, West Germany, watched Boran honey hunters work with honeyguides for three years. They report their observations in the March 10 SCIENCE.

The researchers note that the trivesmen take, on average, 8.9 hours to find honey without the bird and only 3.2 hours with it. When they are ready for honey hunting, the Boran whistle to summon the bird. Likewise, the bird gets the people's attention by fluttering around and calling "tirr-tirr-tirr. …

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