Family Honeyguides (Indicatoridae)

Least Concern

Greater Honeyguide (Indicator indicator)


French: Grand Indicateur German: Schwarzkehl-Honiganzeiger Spanish: Indicador grande

Cuculus indicator


, 1777,

Great Fish River, Eastern Cape Province, South Africa


Not very closely related to African congeners; perhaps closest to African I. variegatus and I. minor and Oriental I. xanthonotus and I. archipelagicus; possibly not too distant from Melichneutes robustus. Moderate individual, seasonal and altitudinal variation, along with mosaic pattern of geographical variation, makes racial subdivision impracticable. Monotypic.


Sahel zone from Senegambia and S Mali across to Eritrea, S to near coast of W Africa, SE Sierra Leone, SE Gabon, coastal and SE Congo#R#R, and S (around main forested belt) through EC Africa including E & S DRCongo, much of E Africa, and from Angola, NE Namibia and N & E Botswana to Mozambique, S to Cape Province.

Descriptive notes

19–20 cm; 34–62 g, mostly 40–57 g. Distinctive. Male unmistakable, brown above, with black throat, white cheeks, pink bill, yellow or golden-yellow shoulder... read more


Song, usually by male, sometimes by female, soft “peew” and then series of “tor-... read more


Open woods, woodland edges, bushland, streamside woods, bushes in dry areas, plantations, gardens... read more

Food and feeding

Eats mainly beeswax, also grubs and eggs of honeybees, and diverse insects, including termites, winged ants, flies and others; nestling... read more


Accords with breeding seasons of hosts; in dry areas of tropics breeds in wet seasons, in wet regions breeds in dry seasons; recorded in... read more


Essentially resident, but disperses to 20 km or more; regularly moves 8–10 km; juvenile... read more

Status and conservation

Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Fairly common, and widespread; occurs widely in the Sahel and sub-Saharan Africa, except in desert, forest and grassland; in all but... read more

Recommended citation

Short, L.L. & Horne, J.F.M. (2019). Greater Honeyguide (Indicator indicator). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 16 September 2019).