Hadza hunter-gatherers of northern Tanzania have developed a deep and mutually beneficial relationship with the Greater Honeyguide bird, which, as its name indicates, leads people to sources of wild honey. Yale anthropologist Brian Wood has studied in great detail the intricate, and often surprising, interactions between people and birds in a new study published in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior.
The Hadza follow the Honeyguide, which leads them to colonies of honeybees, where the foragers harvest rich honeycomb. The birds are very good at their jobs, according to Wood, who estimates the Honeyguides help foragers find five times more bee colonies than if they searched for them on their own. The colonies that the birds find also yielded more honey than bee colonies the foragers found on their own. Eight to 10 percent of the Hadza's yearly diet is derived from following the Honeyguide's lead.
But what do the birds get out of this relationship? Turns out, not too much. Many writers have suggested that people actively reward honeyguides, but Wood found that the opposite is true.