Disco Tony has travelled over 5,000 miles. He is grey with a yellow ring around his eyes. He is a cuckoo, but not just any cuckoo. He is one of a very special group of birds whose every move is being monitored.
A study of reed warbler behaviour reveals for the first time that in assessing the risks posed by cuckoos the birds combine information from multiple sources. An ‘information highway’ provides one set of clues and personal encounters another. Only when both add up, do the birds take defensive action.
The Cambridge Animal Alphabet series celebrates Cambridge's connections with animals through literature, art, science and society. Here, K is for Kingfisher. Look out for them among the swamp cypresses at the Botanic Garden, where the secrets behind their cyan and blue feathers are being studied by an extraordinary collaboration of scientists.
When you’re prey, being able to spot and assess the threat posed by potential predators is of life-or-death importance. In a paper published today in Animal Behaviour, researchers from the University of Cambridge’s Department of Psychology show that wild jackdaws recognise individual human faces, and may be able to tell whether or not predators are looking directly at them.
Juvenile zebra finches that experience high stress levels will ignore how their own parents forage and instead learn such skills from other, unrelated adults. This may help young birds avoid inheriting a poor skillset from parents – the likely natural cause of their stress – and becoming trapped by a “bad start in life”.
First time ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’ mimicry has been seen in birds. Host birds have evolved a general counter-strategy in which they defend against all birds with the mimicked plumage - cuckoos and harmless species alike.
Surprising finding shows that thornbills simulate a ‘chorus of alarm’ to distract predators by convincing them something scarier is on its way.
Research published today looks at the evolutionary pathways to differences in bird plumage patterns between males and females – and concludes that birds are able to adapt their appearance with remarkable ease.
Evolutionary trick allows cuckoos to mimic the plumage of birds of prey, and may be used to scare mothers from their nests so that cuckoos can lay their eggs. Mimicry in cuckoos may be more much more widespread than previously thought.