Research by Sidney Fellow Rebecca Kilner shows how breeding birds are fighting off cuckoo invaders.

Common cuckoos famously lay their eggs in other birds’ nests. But new research from Sidney Fellow in Natural Sciences Professor Rebecca Kilner and colleagues has revealed how bird species are able to fight back against the cuckoo invaders.

The team have harnessed computer technology to see eggs as though through a bird’s eyes and they now understand better how egg patterns help birds distinguish their own eggs from the cuckoo’s egg.  Their research, published in Nature Communications, shows that cuckoo hosts have evolved distinctive patterns on their eggs to enable easy recognition, but that each species makes its pattern signature recognizable in a different way. Having identified the foreign egg in the nest, hosts remove it from their nest and thus escape exploitation by the cuckoo.

You can read more about the research on the University of Cambridge’s Research News website.

The full citation for the research is: Mary Caswell Stoddard, Rebecca M. Kilner and Christopher Town (2014) ‘Pattern recognition algorithm reveals how birds evolve individual egg pattern signatures’, Nature Communications.

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