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Flush-pursuers fake out fleeing prey

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12:55pm, June 5, 2001

Birds that advertise their presence to potential prey may improve their chances of catching a meal, a new study reports.

Most birds are stealthy when hunting insects, moving as little as possible to catch their would-be meals by surprise. A class of birds known as flush-pursuers, however, uses the movement of their conspicuously patterned tails and wings to elicit escape responses in nearby insects, such as flies. That deception leads to successful hunting. Now, biologist Piotr Jablonski at the University of Arizona in Tucson has figured out how this tactic works so well.

Earlier studies revealed that redstarts and other flush-pursers spread their wings and raise their tails to scare insects out of hiding.

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