Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The Nature of Camouflage

If you are a Red-browed Finch, (Neochmia temporalis) which eats grass seeds, you have to come out into the open (where the grasses live) to eat. So, how do you protect yourself?

Well, firstly, being nearly invisible is a great start - so camouflage is relevant. You will note the use of military style "khaki", but it is mixed with a lovely grey, black on the tail, and red flashes on the head and rump.

Many finches have some bright colouring. But bright colours are not a problem, if they are mixed up. You do not present a clear outline or "target" that way.

Second trick is to blend in. Don't sit high on a tree.

Or if you do, .....

don't stay there for very long!

Going down!

Third trick is to travel in flocks. There the statistical truth of "safety in numbers", but in fact, it also helps confuse predators, which are never sure which bird to go for.
There are 10 birds in this group, in an area about the size of two A4 pages, side by side. Companionship? Maybe. But definitely a safety issue too.

Finally, keep moving, and be alert. These little birds stayed in one place for a matter of seconds only, not even for a minute. Hopping forward, to pick up seeds, looking around all the time, for new "prizes", but with one eye open to spot danger, and listening for any alarm calls of other birds, or the sudden flap of wings from their colleagues. Nervous energy was on display.

These lovely little birds - a flock of about 50 in all, were swarming over the ground yesterday in the late afternoon sunlight, when the ground was warm. But they were constantly on the move - hopping here and there, then suddenly, if one panicked, the whole flock would be off to the nearby cover of shrubs and trees. Then in less than a minute, the bravest would return, and then the others would follow. This cycle kept going for about 10 minutes, then suddenly the whole flock was gone.

Bellies full of seeds, and warmed up by the late afternoon sun.

Happy and safe, for another day.

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