Ground-nesting birds called lapwings are able to hide from predators by using the shape of their nests and surroundings, according to new research. Many ground-nesting species are in decline due to changes in land management and high populations of predators. Conservation projects often fail because too many eggs and chicks are eaten. The study, led by the University of Exeter, found that lapwings can hide their eggs by using small variations in the terrain, making them invisible to ground predators such as foxes from anything more than 1.5 metres away. The lapwings also use camouflage, blending in with their surroundings, to further protect their nests. The researchers used 3D scanners and specialised cameras to measure the shape, height, and camouflage of lapwing nests and their surroundings. Lapwing populations have declined by more than half since the 1970s. The findings could help inform conservation efforts for this declining species, which is an important part of farmland in the UK and beyond. Creating habitats that complement lapwing camouflage could help them breed successfully, in addition to predator control measures. The study was funded by the Natural Environment Research Council and the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust.

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