This African bird will lead you to honey, if you call to it in just the right way

The Greater Honeyguide bird in Africa appears to learn the distinct calls of human foragers nearby and leads them to honey-filled trees, according to a new study in the journal Science.

Background: The study focuses on the unique cooperation between the Greater Honeyguide bird and local human foragers.
* The species is not domesticated and no one trains them. However, when called by local foragers using distinct sounds, the birds guide them to honey.
* Different communities use specific sounds to attract the birds. Hadza foragers in Tanzania use a special whistle, while the Yao community in Mozambique uses a trilling sound followed by a low grunt.

The specifics: Birds were found to respond more to the calls made by their local human partners.
* When the birds heard the kind of call made by their usual human partners, they were far more likely to lead a person to honey than when they heard sounds made by hunters from a different country.
* The study brings to light a rare example of humans and wild animals collaborating, similar to dolphins helping people fish in Brazil.

Possible Learning Process: How the birds learn these distinctive sounds remains unknown, but it seems to be a two-way benefit.
* The honeyguide birds, having far more information about the locations of bee hives than humans could, lead the foragers to the honey when called.
* The human foragers, in return, provide the birds with discarded beeswax from honeycombs which they love to eat.

Response to Cultural Cues: Honeyguides seem to respond differently to cultural signals.
* In Tanzania, honeyguides appeared 82% of the time when Hadza whistles were being played, and only 24% of the time when trills from Mozambique were played.
* In Mozambique, the birds responded to trills 73% of the time and to Hadza whistles from Tanzania only 26% of the time, indicating that birds have learned the distinct cues of their human neighbors.
View original article on NPR
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