Being parasitised by a greater honeyguide is very bad news for a host – the young honeyguide stabs the host’s young to death with special bill hooks as soon as it hatches (more here). It’s therefore puzzling that little bee-eater hosts seem not to recognise and eject honeyguide eggs from their nests (more here). In this paper, we tested whether perhaps the sight of a female honeyguide (pictured) at the nest might give hosts a cue that they’re being parasitised and prompt them to defend themselves. The answer is that most bee-eaters seem bafflingly blithe! Read more in the original paper by Wenfei Tong, Nicholas Horrocks and Claire Spottiswoode, available open access in Ibis.
Dr Gabriel Jamie gave a talk on mimicry in the parasitic finches of Africa at Birdlife South Africa’s Virtual African Birdfair. Please also see Dr Jessica van der Wal’s talk on our sister research project on honeyguide-human mutualism (more information at www.AfricanHoneyguides.com) and many other great research talks by our colleagues at the FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology. Also visit the amazing line-up of other talks at the Virtual African BirdFair, including a talk on bird art by the brilliant Faansie Peacock who has generously allowed us to use his illustrations in several of our scientific publications. Thank you BirdLife South Africa!