In a new paper we show experimentally that adult female cuckoo finches (at left in photo) in Zambia have evolved to resemble harmless and abundant bishop-birds (right), which should help them to slip past being attacked by host parents while they try to lay their egg. However, hosts are not fooled by this attempted deception, and defend themselves against parasitic cuckoo finches and harmless bishop-birds alike. To our knowledge this is the first time that such “wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing” plumage mimicry has been experimentally shown to exist in any adult bird. The paper is by Will Feeney, Jolyon Troscianko, Naomi Langmore and Claire Spottiswoode, and is available open access in Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B.
Dr Gabriel Jamie has just returned from a successful couple of months of fieldwork in Zambia as part of his Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellowship. For this research, Dr Jamie is exploring the evolution of polymorphisms across diverse avian family Cisticolidae which exhibit some of the most complex and diverse eggs of any group of birds in the world.