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Indicator variegatus (Scaly-throated honeyguide) 

Gevlekte heuningwyser [Afrikaans]; Intakobusi (generic term for honeyguide) [Xhosa]; iNhlava (also applied to Lesser honeyguide) [Zulu]; Hlalala, Nhlampfu [Tsonga]; Schubkeel-honingspeurder [Dutch]; Indicateur variť [French]; Gefleckter honiganzeiger [German]; Indicador-de-peito-escamoso [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Piciformes > Family: Indicatoridae

Indicator variegatus (Scaly-throated honeyguide)  Indicator variegatus (Scaly-throated honeyguide) 

Scaly-throated honeyguide, Arabuko-Sokoke forest, Kenya. [photo Steve Garvie ©]

Scaly-throated honeyguide, Kruger National Park, South Africa. [photo Francois Dreyer ©]

Distribution and habitat

Occurs across sub-Saharan Africa; in southern Africa it is fairly common but localised in central and southern Mozambique, eastern Zimbabwe, Swaziland and eastern and southern South Africa. It generally prefers coastal, montane and riparian forest, dense miombo (Brachystegia) woodland and valley bushveld; it is most common in mosaics of forest and woodland.

Distribution of Scaly-throated honeyguide in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project (© Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  

Movements and migrations

Resident and sedentary.


Mainly eats beeswax, honeybees (Apis mellifera) and other insects, doing most of its foraging by hawking prey from a perch or by seeking out beehives. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:


  • Territorial, polygynous and brood parasitic (laying its eggs in other birds' nests), as each male copulates with multiple females within his calling territory.
  • The following birds have been recorded as host of the Scaly-throated honeyguide:
  • Egg-laying season is from September-January, peaking from September-December.
  • It lays a single egg per host nest, which is probably incubated for about 18 days.
  • The chicks are thought to kill the chicks of the host, leaving the nest after about 27-35 days and soon becoming fully independent.


Not-threatened, although destruction and transformation of woodland-forest mosaics is cause for concern.


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town.