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.
In a new paper published in Evolution, Dr Gabriel Jamie along with Silky Hamama, Collins Moya and Prof. Claire Spottiswoode from the African Cuckoos team and collaborators from University of Puerto Rico (Steven Van Belleghem), Princeton University (Dr Cassie Stoddard and Dr Ben Hogan) and University of Cambridge (Professor Rebecca Kilner) provide evidence of host-specific mimicry in the indigobirds and whydahs of Africa. Building on the pioneering work of Robert Payne and Jürgen Nicolai, they provide quantitative evidence that nestling Vidua finches mimic the patterns, colours and begging calls of their host’s nestling, and qualitative evidence of mimicry of host movements.