Honeyguides, honey hunters stick together to find, break into bees’ hives
When asked the right way, a savvy bird species steers African hunter-gatherers to honey. All it takes is a loud trill followed by a grunt that sounds like “brrr-hm.”
Birds known as greater honeyguides (Indicator indicator) lead hunter-gatherers in Mozambique to honey-rich bees’ nests after hearing humans make this signature call, say evolutionary ecologist Claire Spottiswoode of the University of Cambridge and her colleagues. In exchange, the birds get human-aided access to perilous-to-reach food, the scientists report in the July 22 Science.
The new study provides the first solid evidence of two-way, collaborative communication between humans and a nonhuman animal in the wild. In some parts of the world, dolphins help fishermen herd fish into nets. But it’s unclear whether these dolphins respond to specific calls from fishermen.