Why do birds waste their eggs

This is how the cuckoo can be tricked


Some bird species lay a light-colored egg with a signaling effect

London - We recently reported on the tricky use of "egg colors" with which the cuckoo can subjugate its eggs to strange bird parents (see left column). But the game also works the other way around. British scientists have now discovered why some species of birds are the last to lay a light-colored egg. In this way, they keep cuckoo parents from setting their eggs in other people's nests, report the researchers working with Graham Ruxton from the Universities of Glasgow and Sussex in the journal American Naturalist. The light-colored egg, as laid by sparrows, shows the cuckoo parents that hatching has already begun. The strange bird chick would therefore no longer hatch in time and the egg would be wasted. The researchers have shown how efficient and stable this system is in simulations of bird populations. Birds that are the last to lay a white egg and cuckoo parents who pay attention to the signal have the most offspring. "Smart" birds, on the other hand, who lay the white egg first and use it to fool cuckoo parents, will soon no longer believe them, according to the researchers. The theoretical results are now to be tested in various experiments. (pte)

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