Wildlife TV

Learn interesting and funny plant and animal facts with videos and photos

How do baby Honeyguides survive?

on May 29, 2013

Previously I’ve discussed the survival strategies of many animal species: cheetah, zebra, wildebeest, hippopotamus, african elephant, spotted hyena, white and black rhinoceros and warthogs, all of them with one thing in common, they are all mammals.

Today I’ll focus on something different but equally interesting: newborn chicks and their survival techniques.

As you all know, there are many bird species in the world, more “precisely” around 10 000, depending on what classification system you are using. It would be crazy to discuss all of them today so for today’s entry I selected a very special african bird species.

 

Honeyguide chicks

The honeyguides belong to the Indicatoridae family and are birds known for their interaction with other animal species, particularly humans by, just like the name indicates, guiding them to bee hives to get honey.

There are 17 different species of honeyguides and they all share a very important parental technique in common: they all rely on parasitism to raise their young. In fact, they are the only bird family in which all of their members are brood parasites and this is what makes them special.

Below you can see images of 2 different honeyguide species.

 

Wahlberg's Honeyguide or Brown Backed Honeyguide (Prodotiscus regulus)

Wahlberg’s Honeyguide or Brown Backed Honeyguide (Prodotiscus regulus)
Photo credit

Lesser Honeyguide (Indicator minor)

Lesser Honeyguide (Indicator minor)
Photo credit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First of all let me explain what is “brood parasitism” in birds.

Brood parasites are birds that don’t involve themselves with any type of parental care. So how do they do this?

They simply lay their eggs in the nest of another bird species (host) while the progenitors are away and let this new hosts raise the honeyguide chick as their own.

Once the honeyguide chick hatches they react to the hosts’ chicks in one of three ways:

  • The honeyguide chick may immediately puncture the unborn hosts’ eggs to kill them and eliminate competition over food and parental care.
  • The honeyguide chick may kick the other chicks out of the nest, either still as eggs or already hatched.
  • The honeyguide chick may just leave the other chicks and share food and parental care without eliminating competition.

And now I know you are wondering: “how doesn’t the host bird identify the foreign egg and just get rid of it immediately?”

Honeyguides and other brood parasite species have been evolving and developing their techniques over thousands of years. Not only do specific honeyguide species always lay eggs in the same host species but also their eggs evolved to look very similar.

Below you can check out a table which shows the host species’ eggs on the left and the honeyguide’s identical egg on the right. As you may notice, they are quite similar both in shape and colour to the hosts’ egg.

 

Host species' eggs and Honeyguides' eggs comparison

Host species’ eggs and Honeyguides’ eggs comparison
Photo credits

 

This technique allows the honeyguides’ parents to breed and carry on their genetic information to the next generation with little to no effort!
They just place their egg on another bird’s nest and go away.
It’s all up to the babies to actually do something about their survival by either killing their half brothers and sisters (from the host species) or just allow them to live if the competition is not too much.

 

I hope you liked learning about the amazing world of honeyguides’ chicks.
Do you want to find out how baby ostriches and other animals survive?
Check out our “Series” page for the list of “Baby Animals: How do they survive?

 

Até à próxima!
~Sofia.

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