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.
In a new paper published in Evolution, Dr Gabriel Jamie along with Silky Hamama, Collins Moya and Prof. Claire Spottiswoode from the African Cuckoos team and collaborators from University of Puerto Rico (Steven Van Belleghem), Princeton University (Dr Cassie Stoddard and Dr Ben Hogan) and University of Cambridge (Professor Rebecca Kilner) provide evidence of host-specific mimicry in the indigobirds and whydahs of Africa. Building on the pioneering work of Robert Payne and Jürgen Nicolai, they provide quantitative evidence that nestling Vidua finches mimic the patterns, colours and begging calls of their host’s nestling, and qualitative evidence of mimicry of host movements.