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How birds spot the cuckoo in the nest
Date:7/15/2008

ally indistinguishable from the nesting parents' own eggs and were accepted as belonging to the brood. However, it was a different matter for the birds sitting on UV-block-coated impostors. Seventeen brooding parents evicted the strange looking egg, pecking at the shell until they had made a large enough hole to stick their beak in and carry it away. Only 11 blackcaps accepted the interloper with its altered appearance.

The UV appearance of the eggs was very important in enabling the blackcaps to recognise the new eggs as impostors. The blackcaps rejected far more eggs when Polačikov and Honza covered them in UV block. By altering the eggs' UV reflectivity the team had made them stand out from the crowd.

Honza admits that he was surprised that the UV reflectivity had such a significant effect on the blackcap's ability to reject an impostor. Having found that an interloper's UV appearance is key to its acceptance in a clutch, Honza is keen to see whether cuckoos try to outsmart their victims by choosing clutches that closely match their own eggs' UV reflectivity.


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Contact: Kathryn Phillips
kathryn@biologists.com
44-122-342-5525
The Company of Biologists
Source:Eurekalert

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