The Loh Down On Science

Color-Savvy Quail

Mrs. Quail—perhaps a bit smarter than you think.    
                                                              
This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science, saying

Pity the poor Japanese quail.

These tiny, shy birds nest on the ground. So how do they protect their eggs from predators?

Well, egg coloring varies from hen to hen. Some eggs have numerous dark spots, some have very few. Background shades vary, also. But each quail somehow finds the perfect predator-safe habitat for her eggs. Is this coincidence? Or tactical nesting?

To find out, researchers at Scotland’s University of St. Andrews brought fifteen quail hens to their lab. They let each loose to choose between four egg-laying locations. Each location contained a different colored sand.

What happened? Each hen laid eggs on the sand that best matched her eggs!

The researchers say this shows that each hen understands what her eggs look like. And she knows the best background to hide them.      
                                                                                      
Which in turn makes Easter egg hunts impossible!  Not that that’s her problem.

The Loh Down on Science is produced by LDOS Media Lab, with 89.3 KPCC Pasadena, California. And made possible by the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

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