Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Adaptations - Camouflage

A simple definition of the word adaptation is a physical trait or behavior that helps a living organism survive in its habitat.

One of the best known adaptations is camouflage.  Camouflage helps an animal blend in with its surroundings or makes the animal look like something else.

In many species of birds, the bird itself is not camouflaged, but it protects its eggs with camouflage.  This means that when the bird leaves the nest, the eggs are difficult to see and thus camouflaged.

One example of this is the Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus).

The Killdeer is a medium-sized shorebird that is often found far from water.  Many Killdeer are found in open habitats across North America.  In Mid-Michigan they can often be found in parks, fields, golf courses, and unpaved parking lots.  They are also frequently seen foraging on gravel roads.

A nesting Killdeer

Killdeer nest on the ground in open spaces.  They hollow out a space on the soil and lay their eggs directly on the ground.  When the female Killdeer leaves the nest to look for food, the eggs are protected by their speckled coloring which camouflages them against their background.

A Killdeer nest with four eggs

A nesting Killdeer, when approached, will try to lead a predator away from the nest, trusting that the camouflage will protect the eggs.

For more information on Killdeer visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website.

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