The Japanese quail may not be able to alter the color of its eggs, but the remarkable bird has keen eye for camouflaged hiding spots, a recent study suggests. In an experiment conducted by a team at the University of St. Andrews, Dr. George Lovell and his team presented female quail with four differently pattered backgrounds to shroud their eggs in.
"Our results show that quail 'know their individual egg patterning and seek out a nest position that provides the most effective camouflage for their individual phenotype," writes the researchers. "When given a choice, birds consistently selected laying substrates that made visual detection of their egg outline most challenging. Furthermore, the maximization seems specific to individual birds"
The Japanese quail is listed as a Near Threatened species, according to Birdlife.org. Although its' peculiar survival adaptation with egg placement is effective against predators, the Coturnix japonica is still the target of hunters. Among quails, the female is the sole incubator of the eggs.
Lovell notes, "Animals make choices based upon their knowledge of the environment and their own phenotype to maximize their ability to reproduce and survive. In this specific case, birds know what their eggs look like and can make laying choice that will minimize predation."
The study was originally published in the journal Current Biology.