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Bird Camouflage – Films, games & Links

August 30, 2014


Taken at McGee Marsh, Ohio (L. Johnson 5-7-14)

Taken at McGee Marsh, Ohio (L. Johnson 5-7-14)

When other animals think of you as food, it’s good to be hard to see.
When you’re a ground-nesting bird, it’s essential.
The above photo contains one bird.

Often you don’t see the bird until you’re about to step on it and it flushes. The Killdeer nesting by Malibu Lagoon run away, pretending they have a broken wing. Mallards will leap up out of the brush, only to land close by, waiting for you to leave. I unexpectedly flushed a Sooty Grouse in Yosemite National Park; exploding from the ground, it nearly gave me a heart attack, then much to my delight landed in a nearby tree.

To learn something about camouflage, why animals use it and how it works, go here.
It’s a 13 1/2 minute film from Aaran Frood of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and provides a visual context for their animal camouflage research. The BBSRC is experimenting by sending cameras to some of their BBSRC-funded researchers so they can record their experiences while pursuing research in the field — gnarly roads, bush fires, biting insects, boomslangs and all! The purpose for this project is “to bring the viewer closer to the action, and so the public paying for the research can see some of the nuances of how it’s really done and what they’re up to”, writes Mr Frood in email.

It's on a nest.  McGee Marsh, Ohio (L. Johnson 5-7-14)

It’s on a nest. McGee Marsh, Ohio (L. Johnson 5-7-14)

GRRLSCIENTIST, hosted by The Guardian but frequently found elsewhere, writes on many topics, including birds. Her 8/27/14 article, Eggcellent citizen science: evolution of camouflage in bird eggs reports on “how an online video game relies on citizen scientists to test the evolution of avian egg camouflage colours and patterns.”

Links to the games are found within her article via the name “hidden nightjars.” Read the article.
If you want to go directly to the games, they’re at the Project Nightjar website.

If you couldn’t find the bird, here’s an even closer view.
[Chuck Almdale]

 American Woodcock nesting next to the  McGee Marsh parking lot in Ohio (L. Johnson 5-7-14)

American Woodcock nesting next to the parking lot at McGee Marsh, Ohio
(L. Johnson 5-7-14)



  1. Paula Kayton permalink
    August 30, 2014 6:01 pm

    Thanks. The video was very interesting.



    • Chukar permalink*
      August 31, 2014 11:52 am

      The games are both fun and challenging. I thought I was doing very well on one of the “find the nightjar” quizzes (under 5 seconds average), and still came out in 685th place. Cynical me, I think some people keep taking it until they have memorized where all the birds are. High score was something like 0.88 seconds average over 20 pictures, which sounds fraudulent to me. I snagged 185th place on one of the “find the nest” quizzes. I couldn’t get the “design the egg” one to work.


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