Camo Birds: The Strategy Behind Disappearing Effectively

Posted by TF Oren
Can you spot the nightjar? Photo by Project Nightjar via ScienceDaily

A recent study of wild birds has revealed that they employ camouflage and concealment strategies specifically tailored to their individualized markings.

In the study, which was undertaken in Zambia with help from local nest-finders, researchers from the Universities of Exeter and Cambridge focused on nine ground-nesting bird species (nightjars, plovers, and coursers).

What they discovered was that individual birds made individual choices. Birds intentionally chose nesting surroundings that complemented their unique feather patterns and colors, making them nearly impossible for predators to spot.

A Mozambique nightjar.

"This is not a species-level choice...Individual birds consistently sit in places that enhance their own unique markings, both within a habitat, and at a fine scale with regards to specific background sites," said project co-leader Professor Martin Stevens, of Exeter's Centre for Ecology and Conservation.

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Researchers are still unclear how individual birds make their choices. Stevens says it's possible that the birds are inherently aware of how they look, and strategize accordingly, or that a trial-and-error process over time informs their nesting choices.

A fiery-necked nightjar.

According to project co-leader Professor Claire Spottiswoode, "We tend to think about camouflage as something that involves gradual evolutionary change in appearance--we don't often think of it as a matter of individual animal behaviour. This research helps us understand how behaviour and appearance are linked."

The study was published in "Nature Ecology & Evolution" and you can check it out here.

What do you think of these independent-minded birds? Let us know in the comments section below!

All photos via Project Nightjar.

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Camo Birds: The Strategy Behind Disappearing Effectively