Data from: Escape distance in ground-nesting birds differs with individual level of camouflage
Wilson-Aggarwal, Jared; Troscianko, Jolyon; Stevens, Martin; Spottiswoode, Claire (2016), Data from: Escape distance in ground-nesting birds differs with individual level of camouflage, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.3h6r1
Camouflage is one of the most widespread antipredator strategies in the animal kingdom, yet no animal can match its background perfectly in a complex environment. Therefore, selection should favor individuals that use information on how effective their camouflage is in their immediate habitat when responding to an approaching threat. In a field study of African ground-nesting birds (plovers, coursers, and nightjars), we tested the hypothesis that individuals adaptively modulate their escape behavior in relation to their degree of background matching. We used digital imaging and models of predator vision to quantify differences in color, luminance, and pattern between eggs and their background, as well as the plumage of incubating adult nightjars. We found that plovers and coursers showed greater escape distances when their eggs were a poorer pattern match to the background. Nightjars sit on their eggs until a potential threat is nearby, and, correspondingly, they showed greater escape distances when the pattern and color match of the incubating adult's plumage-rather than its eggs-was a poorer match to the background. Finally, escape distances were shorter in the middle of the day, suggesting that escape behavior is mediated by both camouflage and thermoregulation.