Our African Cuckoos and their Fork-tailed Drongo hosts star in the “Parenthood” episode of the BBC Natural History Unit’s “Life Story” TV series, narrated by Sir David Attenborough. The broadcast is at 21h00 GMT on BBC One. The Natural History Unit team visited us in Zambia in September–October 2012 to film, ably assisted in the field by Jeroen Koorevaar. See also lovely photos of cuckoos, drongos and cuckoo trickery in the book accompanying the TV series.
New paper on imperfect egg mimicry
Our paper “Combined measures of mimetic fidelity explain imperfect mimicry in a brood parasite-host system” has just been published in the journal Biology Letters. This study was led by Tanmay Dixit, and carried out together with Gary Choi, Salem al-Mosleh, Jess Lund, Jolyon Troscianko, Collins Moya, L Mahadevan, and Claire Spottiswoode, as part of a collaboration between our group and Prof. Mahadevan and his lab at Harvard University. Together we combined mathematical tools and field experiments in Zambia to quantify a key difference – “squiggle” markings – between the eggs of hosts (tawny-flanked prinias) and parasites (cuckoo finches). We showed that suboptimal behaviour on the part of prinias allows cuckoo finches to get by with an imperfect copy of prinia eggs.