Songbirds in a visual arms race with 'brood parasites'
Date: June 17, 2015
Source: Duke University
Summary: Songbirds in the scrublands of southern Zambia are engaged in a high-stakes arms race that they wage with colors and patterns on their eggs. It's a battle that's probably being fought everywhere there are birds practicing what is known as 'brood parasitism' -- laying eggs in the nests of another bird species.
In a new study appearing online June 17 in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, Duke University graduate student Eleanor Caves has found that African songbirds that are frequently victimized by brood parasitic cuckoos have taken to creating elaborate patterns on their eggs to help them recognize the forgeries.
But of course it doesn't work perfectly, or the war would be over.
During her Master's research at the University of Cambridge, Caves methodically examined how two kinds of songbirds pattern their eggs to try to stay one step ahead of two species of parasitic birds.