New collaboration on bronze-winged coursers

Nov 30, 2021

Collins Moya and Jess Lund with a bronze-winged courser

Claire Spottiswoode and Jess Lund from the African Cuckoos team are collaborating on a new project tracking the movements of bronze-winged coursers. Together with Bart Kempenaers, Eunbi Kwon, and Mihai Valcu (Max Planck Institute for Ornithology), as well as fire ecologist Sally Archibald (University of Witwatersrand), the team is investigating little-known aspects of the coursers’ natural history. These birds tend to nest in recently-burnt areas, with incredibly camouflaged eggs and chicks which look like burnt tufts of grass! However, their secretive nature means that the way they move between burnt areas remains a mystery. Studying these birds may also help to understand historic fire regimes across sub-Saharan Africa.  


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.

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New paper on host aggression and hawk mimicry

Our paper “Aggressive hosts are undeterred by a cuckoo’s hawk mimicry, but probably make good foster parents” has just been published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. In the paper, we investigate the costs and benefits to the African cuckoo of specializing on a highly aggressive host species, the fork-tailed drongo.

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African Cuckoos Team at the Pan-African Ornithological Congress

The African Cuckoos Team had a fantastic time at the Pan-African Ornithological Congress (PAOC15), this year held in Vic Falls, Zimbabwe. Dr Chima Nwaogu gave a plenary talk on “Differing Priorities in the Timing of Annual Life History Events”, while Professor Claire Spottiswoode and Silky Hamama presented during a roundtable session on communities in conservation and research. Silky also presented a poster, with Claire, Jess Lund, Mairenn Attwood and Cameron Blair each giving research talks as well. 

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