It is little surprise that cuckoos coming in to lay their parasitic eggs are often 'mobbed' by the birds that they target, in order to drive them away. However, a recent study has found that 'naive' birds are reluctant to approach cuckoos that have a barred (striped) pattern on their undersides, compared to cuckoos that lack such a pattern. This is interpreted as a form of Batesian mimicry by the cuckoos, taking on the stripes of sparrowhawks, which are birds of prey.
Cuckoos therefore may use two different kinds of mimicry in their lives: as adults mimicking birds of prey to prevent host birds from attacking them, and in the nest mimicking host chicks to convince the host parents to feed them.
- "Cuckoos mimic hawks to scare their hosts, says research," by Victoria Gill. BBC Earth News, 17 April 2011
- Welbergen, J. A. & N. B. Davies, 2011. A parasite in wolf's clothing: hawk mimicry reduces mobbing of cuckoos by hosts. Behavioral Ecology. First published online 21 Mar 2011, doi: 10.1093/beheco/arr008 [abstract].