Blue eggs do not reduce nest predation in the song thrush,Turdus philomelos

Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos) Science Article 2


Many passerine birds with open cup-shaped nests lay blue or blue-green eggs. In thrushes, blue eggs may be cryptic and provide camouflage by imitating spots of light on green leaves. Alternatively, egg coloration may be selectively neutral because nest predators detect nests and not eggs, or it may be maladaptive because organisms are not always well adapted to their present environment. I evaluated these hypotheses by studying predation on artificial song thrush (Turdus philomelos) nests with quail eggs, painted either white, blue, or spotted (cryptic to a human eye). Corvids were the major nest predators. For concealed as well as exposed nests, I found no differences in the predation rates of nests with white, blue, or spotted eggs. Predators apparently detected the nests, and not the eggs, first. In a second experiment, I placed egg groups without nests in trees to study the effect of color per se. The predation rate of the spotted egg groups was significantly lower than that of the white and blue egg groups, for concealed as well as exposed egg groups. These results suggest that blue eggs in the song thrush are not cryptic but may be selectively neutral or even maladaptive with regard to nest predation.

Frank Gotmark, Behav Ecol Sociobiol (1992) 30:245-252

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