Prodotiscus regulus (Brown-backed honeybird, Sharp-billed honeyguide, Wahlberg's honeyguide) 

SkerpbekheuningvoŽl [Afrikaans]; Kasoro (generic term for honeyguide/honeybird) [Kwangali]; Molisa-linotöi (also applied to Lesser honeyguide) [South Sotho]; Bruinrug-honingspeurder [Dutch]; Indicateur de Wahlberg [French]; Schmalschnabel-honiganzeiger [German]; Indicador-de-bico-aguÁado [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

Prodotiscus regulus (Brown-backed honeybird, Sharp-billed honeyguide)  Prodotiscus regulus (Brown-backed honeybird, Sharp-billed honeyguide, Wahlberg's honeyguide) 

Brown-backed honeyguide, Cavern Resort, KwaZulu-Natal Drakensberg, South Africa. [photo Alan Manson ©]

Brown-backed honey guide juvenile, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. [photo Alan Manson ©]


For information about this species, see's_Honeyguide

Distribution and habitat

Occurs in patches in West Africa and the area from Tanzania and southern DRC to Angola, Zambia and southern Africa. Here it is uncommon to locally common in the Caprivi Strip (Namibia), northern and eastern Botswana, Zimbabwe, southern Mozambique, Swaziland and eastern South Africa. It generally prefers savanna, thickets, open woodland, thorn scrub and forest edges, especially if the area has alien trees with abundant scale-insects (Coccoidea).

Distribution of Brown-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). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  

Movements and migrations

Largely resident, although it may make seasonal movements, as it is most common in KwaZulu-Natal in Winter when many other honeyguides are scarce.


Mainly eats scale-insects and other insects, doing most of its foraging by gleaning from foliage, twigs and bark while occasionally hawking prey aerially. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

  • Insects
  • Beeswax (rarely)


Prodotiscus regulus (Brown-backed honeybird, Sharp-billed honeyguide, Wahlberg's honeyguide)   

Brown-backed honey guide juvenile being fed by a Lazy cisticola adult, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. [photo Alan Manson ©]

  • Egg-laying season is from November-January, peaking in November.
  • It usually lays a single egg per nest, occasionally up to three, which are incubated by the host bird.
  • The chicks are fed by the hosts on a diet of mainly termite alates, leaving the nest after 17-21 days.


Status uncertain, as it is inconspicuous and probably under-recorded, however it is range has expanded to the south-west with the spread of alien trees, so it is probably not threatened.


  • 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. 



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