Honey badgers are land, quadrupedal creatures that can be about 60-70 cm long with a cylindrical body. Their forefeet are long and wide, with sharp claws used for digging and scaling. In comparison, there are smaller, restricted claws on the hind legs. They are at a height of around 25-30 cm on the shoulders.
Fur with a course, dorsal grey mantle band that stretches from the top of the head to the tip of the tail characterizes the exterior. A white horizontal line distinguishes the gritty white mantle from the black ventral fur on either side of the body. At the base of the head, the white margins form a concave pattern around the bottom of the badger that stretches from the forehead, which is around 12-15 mm above the eye corner and runs to the ears’ upper edges. Honey badgers have small, long-sighted, deep-set eyes that are black and typically reflects light at night.
Having two anal glands on the posterior end, the tail is small and bushy. The two glands are diagonally from the anus and are covered by tissue near the scrotum in male badgers. These glands are used when the honey badger is agitated, for the release of a yellow fluid emitted or used as a defensive mechanism when attacked and for terrestrial marking.
Their skin is thick, tough, and loose, making it easier for the honey badger to twist to break their attacker’s grasp. It also allows the honey badger to navigate in small spaces and gives protection from predator bites.
Honey badgers are mostly a nocturnal species, but they transition to being diurnal during cool, dry months. Compared to females seen foraging with their cubs in their early months, males are often solitary. They are seen hunting in pairs during the breeding season.
The sound created by honey badgers is guttural, defined as a high-pitched screaming bark. The males produce a noisy muttering sound during the breeding season to lure their female counterparts. Vocalization is a distinct sound and frequency during contact with larger carnivores, which comes out like a rattling scream. Juveniles produce a moan of slightly low pitch and make hiccup noises while in pain. Interestingly, they use scent marks for open contact with other badgers, as the male home range can stretch to 500 km2.
The species occurs in a wide range of habitat types, but they are normally absent from the grassland and Nama Karoo biomes in more open and central areas. Their preferred habitat is mostly in desert areas, but they can also be found in grasslands and forests, as mentioned above.
They use their long fore claws to dig tunnels that can be 3 meters long and about 1.5 meters deep. As a place of rest for the honey badgers, these passages or chambers are used. Honey badgers are habitat generalists because they can build homes from something readily accessible, such as uncovered tree roots, rock cracks/gaps, and old uninhabited termite mounds. They also take over tunnels dug out by yellow mongooses, spring hares, Cape foxes and bat-eared foxes because they are courageous animals.
Rooted in their ‘honey’ badger name, many people falsely claim that honey badgers consume honey, while simply attacking beehives in search of bee larvae, creating conflict with bee farmers. As it has been found to feed on the scraps from the beehives left behind by honey badgers, the Greater Honey guide birds have an opportunistic partnership with honey badgers.
Information from the field guide shows that the honey badger is a generalist species and an opportunistic hunter. The diet consists of a wide variety of prey. Therefore, their diet is likely to be affected by seasonal change as it has been found that the honey badger moves between species of prey, highly reliant on the availability of prey.
Easily usable resources for food. Tiny mammals form the basis of the diet for honey badgers and the diet of a honey badger shifts to less lucrative small reptiles and scorpions as smaller animals are less available and there is a rise in the search period for small mammal prey due to the decline in availability.