Cuckoos have been revealed as masters of disguise.

The songbirds, which famously trick other birds into raising their young, use coats of different colours to maximise their odds of sneaking into another bird’s nest, research suggests.

Once the other birds gets wise to one disguise, cuckoos clad in a second colour scheme are still able to slip by and lay their eggs

In Britain, most female cuckoos grey and hawk-like, but some have reddish-brown feathers similar to those of kestrels.

The reason for the evolution of the two different colour schemes comes from Cambridge University scientists who studied how reed warblers reacted to wooden cuckoos poised to ‘invade’ their nests and lay their eggs.

If the reed warblers tried to fend off the cuckoo, others nearby mounted their own attack if the wooden cuckoo was later put by their nests.

But, crucially, they only did this if the cuckoo was the same colour as the one that threatened their neighbours.

In the real world, this would make it easier for cuckoos sporting the second type of plumage to sneak into a nest, the journal Science reports.


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