Cuckoo egg in host nest. Credit Claire Spottiswoode

Cryptic Egg Hunt

The Museum of Zoology team has an affinity towards eggs, from Darwin’s egg to platypus eggs, especially around this time of year. Spring offers the chance to see new generations hatching from a variety of eggs and the arrival of the chocolate kind for many of us.

This year we are bringing the eggs to you with a virtual cryptic egg hunt.

Egg Hunt

Dr Nicholas Horrocks photographed bird’s nests during Zambia’s dry season to investigate how egg colours can help ground-nesting birds cope with the extreme temperatures, while also allowing birds to keep their eggs hidden from predators. The photographs below offer quite a challenge to untrained eyes. Can you spot the eggs?

This research was funded by a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship.

How to play:

Look at the pictures and see if you can spot the eggs. Your challenge is to find out:

  1. which pictures have camouflaged eggs in them (not all of them do)?
  2. how many eggs are shown in each picture?
  3. how many eggs there are in total?

Answers at the bottom of the page.

Project Nightjar

Still got an appetite for more egg hunting? Try spotting some extremely well camouflaged nests in a game made by Project Nightjar.

Project Nightjar aims to increase our understanding of camouflage in the wild and its relationship with survival. Check out the rest of their website to learn more about their work and find other egg-based activities here.

Build a bird’s nest

Test your nest building skills with a Wildlife Trust nature craft: build a bird’s nest.

Wildlife Trust build-a-birds-nest

Bonus round: odd one out

The birds in our cryptic egg hunt lay camouflaged eggs that blend into their environments. However, other species use camouflage in different ways.

Common Cuckoo, University Museum of Zoology collection. Credit University of Cambridge
Common Cuckoo, University Museum of Zoology collection.
Credit University of Cambridge

Cuckoos are a brood parasite species, meaning that they lay their eggs in the nests of other birds, tricking them into looking after their offspring for them. In order to successfully fool other birds, cuckoo eggs need to look nearly identical to those of their host. Therefore, different species and populations of cuckoo produce different coloured eggs depending on which bird they are trying to trick. This egg ‘mimicry’ can be amazingly precise.

To learn more, hear conservator Natalie Jones talk about cuckoos on ‘Animal Bytes’ here or click here to read about ongoing research on African cuckoos.

How to play:

One egg in each of the nests below has been laid by a cuckoo. Can you spot the egg that does not belong?

Answers at the bottom of the page.

Common cuckoo, Cuculus canorus, egg in reed warbler nest, Acrocephalus scirpaceus. Credit Nick Davies
Odd one out photo 1
Credit Nick Davies
Common cuckoo, Cuculus canorus, egg in reed warbler nest, Acrocephalus scirpaceus. Credit Nick Davies
Odd one out photo 2
Credit Nick Davies
Common cuckoo, Cuculus canorus; egg in common redstart nest, Phoenicurus phoenicurus. Credit Rose Thorogood
Odd one out photo 3
Credit Rose Thorogood
African cuckoo, Cuculus gularis, in a fork-tailed drongo nest, Dicrurus adsimilis. Credit Claire Spottiswoode
Odd one out photo 4
Credit Claire Spottiswoode
African cuckoo, Cuculus gularis, in a fork-tailed drongo nest, Dicrurus adsimilis. Credit Claire Spottiswoode
Odd one out photo 5
Credit Claire Spottiswoode

Answers:

Cryptic egg hunt:

  1. No eggs.
  2. 2 eggs, three-banded plover, Charadrius tricollaris.
  3. No eggs.
  4. 1 egg, Temminck’s courser, Cursorius temminckii.
  5. No eggs.
  6. 2 eggs, crowned plover, Vanellus coronatus.
  7. No eggs.
  8. 2 eggs, three-banded courser, Rhinoptilus cinctus.
  9. 2 eggs, three-banded courser, Rhinoptilus cinctus.
  10. 3 eggs, African wattled plover or African wattled lapwing, Vanellus senegallus.
  11. 2 eggs, three-banded courser, Rhinoptilus cinctus.
  12. 2 eggs, three-banded courser, Rhinoptilus cinctus.
  13. No eggs.
  14. 3 eggs, bronze-winged courser, Rhinoptilus chalcopterus.
  15. 1 egg, Mozambique nightjar, Camprimulgus fossii.
  16. No eggs.

A total of 20 eggs.

Bonus round: odd one out:

  1. Bottom right, common cuckoo, Cuculus canorus; reed warbler nest, Acrocephalus scirpaceus.
  2. Bottom right, common cuckoo, Cuculus canorus; reed warbler nest, Acrocephalus scirpaceus.
  3. Top centre, common cuckoo, Cuculus canorus; common redstart nest, Phoenicurus phoenicurus.
  4. Top left, African cuckoo, Cuculus gularis; fork-tailed drongo nest, Dicrurus adsimilis
  5. Bottom left, African cuckoo, Cuculus gularis; fork-tailed drongo nest, Dicrurus adsimilis

6 thoughts on “Cryptic Egg Hunt

    1. Hello! Thank you for giving our egg hunt a go. It is possible to zoom in a little on the egg hunt, however they certainly are difficult to find, with a few red herrings in there too. The bonus eggs are excellently hidden. This is how closely the cuckcoo has matched its host’s eggs!

      Like

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