Honey Guide , a bird of the cuckoo family, and genus indicator (Vieill.). The bill is short, broad at the base, with the culmcn curved; wings long and pointed, with the first quill nearly as long as the third, fourth, and fifth, which are equal and longest; tail moderate, emarginate in the middle, and rounded on the sides; tarsi very short, covered with transverse broad scales; toes unequal, the outer anterior one the longest; claws moderate and strong. About ten species are described, inhabiting the wooded districts of Africa, India, and the Indian islands. It is about as large as a chaffinch, and flies chattering about the trees apparently in a state of great excitement in order to attract the traveller's attention; this effected, it flies in a certain direction toward the nearest wild bees' nest, now and then perching and looking back to see if the person follows; arriving at the tree or deserted ant hill containing the honey, it hovers over it, pointing toward it with the bill, and, alighting on the nearest branch, anxiously and noisily awaits its share of the spoil. It sometimes attacks the nests on its own account when pressed for food, and is occasionally found dead within them, stung to death by the bees, and covered in by a vault of wax to prevent the inconveniences caused by decay.
It will sometimes lead to two or three nests in succession. The natives of South Africa trust implicitly to their guidance in search of honey, and will leave almost any occupation to follow their course, uttering as they go several sentences which they believe have magic power. The unwary traveller, however, instead of wild honey sometimes finds a concealed crocodile or a crouching lion. Persons following it should answer its twitter by a constant whistle. The natives obtain the honey by first stupefying the bees by burning grass at the entrance of the nest. The flight of the bird is heavy, and for only short distances at a time; the nest is made in the holes of trees; the eggs are three or four, and both sexes assist in incubation; the birds are usually seen in pairs.