Birds and humans gang up on bees.

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Birds and humans gang up on bees.

A remarkable symbiosis ocuring in Africa. Much more on this on the page..

By nature the honeyguide displays a great fondness for beeswax and bee larvae. Inasmuch as beehives are virtually inaccessible to these birds and well protected by the bees (Apis mellifira) themselves—the colonies are typically located in large trees, rock crevices or termite mounds—the honeyguide requires the aid of man in order to pillage the honey-cache.

As the natives tell it—and now confirmed by the study of Isack and Reyer—they summon the honeyguide to the campsite by emitting a specific, penetrating whistle which can be heard from a distance of over one kilometer.4 Upon hearing the whistle, the bird responds by flying towards the campsite of the Boran, whereupon it announces itself by flying close to the humans and moving restlessly amongst conspicuous perches in the trees, all the while emitting a very characteristic call (tirr-tirr-tirr-tirr).

Once it has gained the attention of a potential honey-gatherer, the bird then proceeds to guide him in a fairly direct manner to the site of the bee-colony, the latter of which may be several kilometers away.

Alternately appearing and disappearing, the bird periodically returns to check on the humans, as if to make sure that they are still following, such returns becoming more frequent and agitated as the two parties near the hive.

The Boran honey gatherers, in turn, whistle and bang sticks while following the bird to maintain its attention and announce their position.

According to professional honey gatherers, through its guiding pattern, the bird informs them about the direction of, the distance to, and their arrival at the colony.

Upon arriving at the site of the bees' nest, the honeyguide perches near it and emits a very characteristic "indication" call. By all accounts, this call differs markedly from the guiding call.

Should the Boran experience difficulty in locating the colony, the bird swoops down and circles it as if to further clarify the precise location of the nest. Once the nest is found and its thick walls breached, the Boran plunder the honeycombs, always leaving a few select morsels behind for the honeyguide.
By netchicken: posted on 15-9-2005

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