Family Honeyguides (Indicatoridae)

Least Concern

Least Honeyguide (Indicator exilis)


French: Indicateur menu German: Barthoniganzeiger Spanish: Indicador chico
Other common names: Western Least Honeyguide

Melignothes exilis


, 1856,

Moonda River, Gabon


Relationships uncertain. In the past, I. willcocksi, I. meliphilus and even I. minor were often confused with present species, and I. pumilio, too, was on occasion linked with present species. Nominate race and pachyrhynchus intergrade in broad zone from E Central African Republic and SW Sudan to NE DRCongo and W Uganda, where precise limits of respective ranges unclear. Form leona, known from a single immature taken near Freetown (Sierra Leone), now considered a synonym of nominate. Specimens from N Liberia (Wonegizi) said to be very similar to I. willcocksi ansorgei from neighbouring Guinea-Bissau, possibly representing undescribed race of present species; alternatively, they may be referable to I. willcocksi. Four subspecies currently recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • I. e. exilis (Cassin, 1856) – S Senegal E to E Central African Republic and NE DRCongo, S to N Angola and NW Zambia.
  • I. e. poensis Alexander, 1903 – Bioko I.
  • I. e. pachyrhynchus (Heuglin, 1864) – SW South Sudan and extreme E DRCongo, E to W Kenya and S to NW Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi.
  • I. e. cerophagus Clancey, 1977 – SE DRCongo, extreme E Angola and NW Zambia.
  • Descriptive notes

    c. 14 cm; 12–23 g. Well-marked, dark honeyguide. Both sexes of nominate race with white loral area outlined darkly, distinct blackish malar stripes, dark-tipped white... read more


    Song faster “wheer-wheer-” to slower “pew-pew-” series, very like those of... read more


    Primary and secondary forest, old clearings, forest-shrub-grassland mosaic, gallery forest,... read more

    Food and feeding

    Eats beeswax; also larvae and eggs of bees, beetles, flies and their eggs, grasshoppers, aphids, scale insects (Coccidae), leafhoppers (... read more


    Season often prolonged, e.g. Aug–Mar in Liberia; recorded Feb and May in Cameroon, Jan and Jun in Zaire. Territorial, defends singing... read more


    Probably sedentary.

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Widespread, but not common; precise distribution and status in W Africa unclear. Uncommon in Sierra Leone; locally not uncommon in NW & N Liberia... read more

    Recommended citation

    Short, L.L. & Horne, J.F.M. (2019). Least Honeyguide (Indicator exilis). 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 19 January 2019).