Cuckoo finch fools host with multiple eggs


Cuckoo finches lay multiple eggs in the nests of other birds to make it harder to detect the 'imposters', researchers have found.

The name cuckoo is common to many parasitic bird species that rely upon others to raise their young.

African tawny-flanked prinias are the targets of cuckoo finches in southern Zambia.

Prinias' egg colours vary widely but by laying multiple eggs in a nest, cuckoo finches reduce the risk of rejection.

The results of the study undertaken by researchers from the University of Exeter and the University of Cambridge are published in the journalNature Communications.

"Many brood parasites [such as cuckoo finches] and hosts are locked in ongoing evolutionary arms races, with parasites evolving attack strategies to get their eggs accepted – such as egg mimicry – and hosts evolving defences – such as egg rejection," explained co-author Dr Martin Stevens from the University of Exeter.


Written By: Ella Davies
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  1. The eggs are hard to detect, but surely the chicks are obvious. Why don’t parents reject the chicks?

  2. In reply to #1 by Roedy:

    Why don’t parents reject the chicks?

    Because they’re so cute?

    [ gets coat… ]

  3. Like the old saying, never underestimate man’s ingenuity when it comes to finding ways of doing bugger-all. And it seems to apply to a few other species as well, but wouldn’t it just be simpler to, you know, raise the youngs in the first place?

  4. I watched a very interesting segment on ‘Nature’ (pbs) about the brown-headed cowbird – these birds lay eggs in a host nest so as to live on migrating bison. The churned up ground created by the bison running / rolling on the great plains, disturb insects which the birds then eat.

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