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the web of life in southern Africa

Prodotiscus zambesiae (Green-backed honeybird, Slender-billed honeyguide) 

DunbekheuningvoŽl [Afrikaans]; Kasoro (generic term for honeyguide/honeybird) [Kwangali]; Grijze honingspeurder [Dutch]; Indicateur gris [French]; Zwerghoniganzeiger [German]; Indicador-de-bico-fino [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

Distribution and habitat

It has an isolated population in Ethiopia and Kenya, although it is most widespread further south, in the area from Angola, Zambia and southern Tanzania to southern Africa. Within southern Africa it occurs in the Caprivi Strip (Namibia), north-western and south-eastern Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique, generally preferring Mopane (Colosphermum mopane), Zambezi teak (Baikiaea plurijuga) and miombo (Brachystegia) woodland.

Distribution of Green-backed honeybird 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).

Movements and migrations

Resident and largely sedentary, although it may make local movements in winter.


It mainly eats insects, doing most of its foraging by plucking prey from twigs and occasionally hawking flying insects aerially. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:


  • Territorial brood parasite, meaning that it lays its eggs in the nest of other birds; the only host recorded in southern Africa is the African yellow white-eye, however in Zambia the Black-throated wattle-eye, African paradise-flycatcher, African dusky flycatcher and Amethyst sunbird have all been found as hosts as well.
  • Egg-laying season is from July-October, peaking from September-October.
  • The female stakes out the nest of the host before laying, waiting for the bird to leave before removing at least one of the existing eggs before laying a single egg of its own, which is incubated by the host for about 13 days.
  • The newly hatched chick uses its hooked bill to kill the other nestlings in the first three days of its life, leaving the nest after at least 22 days.


Not threatened, although clearing of miombo (Brachystegia) woodland in Zimbabwe 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.