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TagAndy Carstens

killdeer on the ground

The Remarkable Deceitfulness of Birds — But Is It Really Deceit?

The birds themselves are not agents making a moral choice to deceive; they are carrying out a behavior pattern they have inherited

When Clinton Francis, a specialist in bird behavior, challenged student Wren Thompson to find out how many types of birds use deceit in their defences against predators of their nests, he hardly expected to find that the number she was able to discover was 285: Mapping those behaviors onto the avian phylogenetic tree revealed that the trait spans from some of the most basal bird families, including pheasants and ducks, to more recently evolved taxa such as songbirds. “It’s pretty amazing,” Francis says, adding that he was surprised how “particular clades on the avian tree of life really just light up,” including blackbirds, warblers, and sparrows. The frequent and disjointed appearance of the behavior across the tree suggests it evolved Read More ›