In DepthANIMAL BEHAVIOR

Wild bird comes when honey hunters call for help

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Science  22 Jul 2016:
Vol. 353, Issue 6297, pp. 335
DOI: 10.1126/science.353.6297.335

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Summary

Of all relationships between wild animals and people, few are more heartwarming than that of African honey hunters and a robin-sized bird called the greater honeyguide. Flitting and calling, the bird leads the way to a bee's nest and feasts on the wax after the honey hunters have raided it. Researchers have discovered that this mutualistic relationship is even tighter than it seemed, with the bird recognizing and responding to specific calls from its human partners. In the new work, the researchers quantify the benefit to people helped by the birds and test how much more guiding occurs when the honey hunters attract the birds first with a "trill-grunt" call. This work was done in Mozambique, but it seems honey hunters elsewhere also have special calls, albeit different ones.