Journal of Ornithology

, Volume 151, Issue 4, pp 765–770 | Cite as

Egg survival is related to the colour matching of eggs to nest background in Black-tailed Gulls

  • Who-Seung LeeEmail author
  • Young-Soo Kwon
  • Jeong-Chil YooEmail author
Original article


A long-standing hypothesis posits that, for species with exposed nests, a close match between the colour of the eggs and that of the nest in which they are laid should enhance egg survival, but this has rarely been tested in a rigorous manner. Here, we demonstrate the effects of egg–nest colour matching on egg survival in Black-tailed Gulls (Larus crassirostris) on Hongdo Island, Korea. We quantified the ground colour of eggshells and that of the nest background using a digital camera and computerized RGB and greyscale colour systems. We show that a close match of eggshell ground colour and nest background colour was associated with increased chances of eggs surviving through to hatching. In particular, there were strong survival advantages for eggs matching the nest colour in sites with poor concealment, whereas there was no effect of eggshell ground colour in nests that were more concealed by vegetation. Our findings support the hypothesis that egg colour functions to make eggs cryptic and that egg colouration may be a significant factor affecting egg loss.


Colour quantification Camouflage Eggshell colour Hatching success Nest site characteristic 



We thank Dong-Won Kim and In-Ki Kwon for assistance in the field on Hongdo Island. We are grateful to Neil B. Metcalfe who contributed valuable suggestions to improve the manuscript and the translation of the manuscript. Special thanks are extended to Young Seuk Park, Marc Mangel, and Pat Monaghan for providing helpful comments on earlier drafts of the manuscript. We also thank Dr. Peter H. Becker (the subject editor) and two anonymous referees who provided constructive comments on the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Dt. Ornithologen-Gesellschaft e.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biology and The Korea Institute of OrnithologyKyung Hee UniversitySeoulSouth Korea
  2. 2.Division of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Faculty of Biomedical and Life Sciences, Graham Kerr BuildingUniversity of GlasgowGlasgowUK
  3. 3.Korea National ParkNational Park Research InstituteNamwon-siSouth Korea

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