Since animals don’t talk, it’s a bit of a stretch to accuse them of uttering falsehoods. Yet, it seems deception is not exclusive to just homo sapiens. Whether its predators fooling their prey or certain species of birds tricking others into to raising their brood [a phenomenon called kleptoparasitism], the art of deceit runs rampant throughout the animal kingdom.
Squirreling It Away
Sciurus carolinensis, common name eastern 'gray' or 'grey' squirrel depending on the region, is a tree and ground squirrel. It is native to eastern North America, where it is the most prodigious and ecologically essential natural forest regenerator.
They breed widely up and down the Atlantic coast from Manitoba to Florida. They’re a very crafty species, who will go to great lengths to hide their stashed bounty by digging decoy holes to keep their nut thieves guessing.
This act of deception works well for them, particularly when they sense they are being watched. This shows a higher level of intelligence. While similar tactics have previously been observed in other mammals, it is believed to be the first evidence of its use by rodents.
Dr Michael Steele of Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania noted there was evidence of squirrels using this tactic when they viewed the research team raiding their caches. This reaction suggested these animals understood the concept of 'stealing.'
"Our study is the first to offer evidence of behavioral deception by a scatter-hoarding rodent,” noted Steele.
Blue Jay Impersonators
The Blue jay (Cyanocitta cristata) is a passerine bird in the family Corvidae, native to North America.
They are said to be nature's most gifted liars.“Blue jays do a good job of imitating a variety of hawk species,” says Bob Mulvihill, an ornithologist at the National Aviary in Pittsburgh.
The hawk's squawk causes other birds to scatter, leaving the jays with easy pickings at local bird feeders, and other community hand-outs available in neighborhoods.
Others suggest there is an altruistic motive to the Jays’ deception. They imitate various species of hawks to warn their fellow ‘birds of a feather’ that their number-one predator has been spotted and it’s time to take cover.
Don't Put All Their Eggs In One Basket
Cowbirds belong to the genus Molothrus in the family Icteridae. In North America they can produce up to 40 eggs a season. However this species is a bit of a lazy bird. Instead of diligently building nests like most of their winged brethren, female Cowbirds covertly lay their eggs in the bird nests of others.
“They’re the quintessential bird that does not put all their eggs in one basket,” Mulvihill says.
When a female Cowbird lays her egg in the nest, she also removes one or two ‘resident’ eggs from the nest. Generally, she takes out more eggs than she puts in the nest. But she does leave some behind so that when Mama birds return, they will not desert these nest, as long as some its own eggs are still present.
Con or be conned
So, as you can see, while anything goes in the wild, deceit runs rampant throughout the animal kingdom. It’s con or be conned or eat or be eaten. Survival of the fittest doesn’t just rely on physical strength. More often than not, it depends on a level of intelligence and cunning, where the greater rewards go to the those who can think the quickest on their feet!
We discussed only a few today. Over time, I will report on others. Or perhaps you are aware of some very deceiving animals? Comment below and let us know who are some of your favorite animal liars [humans withstanding]?