INDICATOR

(Indicatoridae; Ϯ Greater Honeyguide I. indicator) L. indicator, indicatoris  guide, one that points out  < indicare  to show  < index, indicis  sign, informer  < in  among; dicere  to tell (cf. specific name Cuculus indicator Sparrman, 1777); "The Dutch settlers thereabouts have given this bird the name of Honiguyzer, or Honey-guide, from its quality of discovering wild honey to travellers  ...  Not only the Dutch and Hottentots, but likewise a species of quadruped named Ratel (probably a new species of Badger), are frequently conducted to wild bee-hives by this bird, which, as it were, pilots them to the very spot. The honey being its favourite food, its own interest prompts it to be instrumental in robbing the hive, as some scraps are commonly left for its support" (Sparrman in Stephens 1815);  "INDICATOR. HONEY-GUIDE ...  THE Honey-guides form a very peculiar genus ...  the feathers are short, hard, and pressed close to the body: the skin is thick, and the fibres so close that it is difficult to pierce it even with a pin, an admirable provision of nature to guard these birds against the stings of bees, as it forms an almost impenetrable coat of mail. Sparrman first described the Honey-guide, which he placed in the genus Cuculus, to which it is only related in having the toes placed two and two.   ...   SPARRMAN'S HONEY-GUIDE. (Indicator Sparrmanii.)   ...   GREAT HONEY-GUIDE. (Indicator major.)   ...   LITTLE HONEY-GUIDE. (Indicator minor.)" (Stephens 1815); "Indicator Stephens, in Shaw's Gen. Zool., 9, pt. 1, 1815, p. 131. Type, by tautonymy, Indicator Sparrmanii Stephens = Cuculus indicator Sparrman." (Peters 1948, VI, 65).  The Greater Honeyguide is well known for leading mammals (especially the Ratel and man) to bees’ nests, enabling the stronger mammal to break open the nests and benefit from the honey, whilst the honeyguide eats the grubs, bees, and wax. Local superstition demands that some token honey is left for the honeyguide, otherwise it will next lead the searcher to stumble upon a hidden leopard or venomous snake.
Synon. Melignostes, Melignothes, Meliphagus, Melipodagus, Morocus, Prodotes, Pseudofringilla, Pseudospiza.

Search for more names on the Key to Scientific Names in Ornithology by James A. Jobling.
Recommended citation
Jobling, J. A. (2019). Key to Scientific Names in Ornithology. In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.) (2019). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from www.hbw.com on 19 January 2019).