PLAY­ING HIDE AND TWEET

BBC Wildlife Magazine - - Wild News - SOURCE Na­ture Ecol­ogy and Evo­lu­tion LINK http://go.na­ture.com/2wLOfCS

Ground-nest­ing birds such as night­jars, plovers and cours­ers are fa­mous for blend­ing in with their sur­round­ings to the point of in­vis­i­bil­ity. But new re­search shows how so­phis­ti­cated their pat­tern-match­ing abil­i­ties are.

All night­jars look un­can­nily like a for­est floor. But they don’t all look like the same patch of for­est floor. “Each in­di­vid­ual bird looks a lit­tle bit dif­fer­ent, and we have shown that they can act in­di­vid­u­ally,” says Martin Stevens of the Univer­sity of Ex­eter.

Stevens’ team found that in­di­vid­ual birds choose to hun­ker down on patches that best match their own par­tic­u­lar mark­ings. And they don’t align just their plumage – they also se­lect a nest-site that pro­vides the best cam­ou­flage for their eggs.

It’s not yet known how they do it. “It could be that some­how they ‘know’ what they look like and act ac­cord­ingly,” says Stevens. “They may look at them­selves, their eggs and the back­ground and judge whether it’s a good place to nest, or learn over time about what kinds of places their eggs es­cape be­ing eaten.”

The pen­nant-winged night­jar is a master of dis­guise.

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