Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Critter Camouflage

Critters of all shapes and sizes, whether hunter or prey, can really blend in. Many critters have developed coloring that mimics the coloring of at least some portion of their surroundings so they can escape prying eyes. The female mallard duck blends into her nesting site. Many butterflies have undersides of wings that mimic leaves or dappled shade so that they “disappear” when they are resting with wings closed. I was surprised one evening last month to find out how well a raccoon’s coloration allowed it to blend into the dappled shade on the trunk of the pear tree that my dog had chased it into.

I did a double take recently when passing by an unused planter of mine. A Texas spiny lizard matched the contour and coloring of the coconut husk and mulch so well that I almost jumped with surprise when I realized how close I was to this camouflaged critter that I had not managed to see until I was practically on top of it. It is examples like these that make me wonder how many of nature’s wonders I pass by with absolutely no clue.

A camouflage expert that I have to be vigilant looking for in my garden is the tomato hornworm. These critters use their camouflage skills to avoid being seen by predators and gardeners alike so they can hang out and enjoy a good meal of pepper and tomato plants and fruit alike. Often I will see their frass to alert me to their presence before I see the caterpillars.

Share your observations of critter camo in the comments section.


  1. I hope you didn't walk up on that snake! I recently had a pair of Whistling ducks and several ducklings wander into my yard (full of cats). The ducklings are dark with bright yellow stripes. I still haven't figured out what they could be blending in with.

  2. That is actually a TX Spiny Lizard that is laying such that you can't easily see its legs that are well camouflaged. Perhaps the duckling's color helps them blend into the play of light and dark when they are in the water or in last year's leaf litter. That coloration would definitely make them stand out on a green lawn. I had a mama duck make a well hidden nest in my asparagus garden after the picking season this last spring. Unfortunately it appeared that the nest was raided on subsequent nights by racoons and mama eventually left when no eggs remained.