The Web of Life (15-6-6) Deception continued 2

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One issue of deception goes to intent. Evolution may result in coloration where the wearer puts forth no effort for the advantage. Phenotype alone may be the complete deceit. But in many instances, behaviors enhance the deceptive look.

Many deceptions involve cunning. Ground-nesting birds, such as plovers, will lure a predator away from their nest by feigning a broken wing. In doing so, they monitor a predator, such as fox, to see whether the ruse works: whether the fox is following the bird, or still heading to the nest. Foxes may learn to see through such a ruse and suspect that they are being led away from edible eggs or chicks.

Another distraction display is the “rodent run.” Shorebirds lure a predator away from their nest by running rapidly in a low crouch that appeals to the mouse-catching instincts of mammalian carnivores. Once the danger is passed, the bird sneaks back to its nest.

Some fly-catching birds hunt in groups of mixed species, giving alarm calls at the approach of a bird-eating hawk. Flycatchers feed on insects flushed out by the flock. A flycatcher will sometimes intentionally raise a false alarm to distract other birds, thereby enhancing its own chance of finding fare.