By Gerry Bishop
For some animals, every day is April Fools’ Day! Their super tricks help them find food and stay safe from enemies.
Hiding in Plain Sight. For this snow leopard, playing tricks is serious business! Off in the distance, the leopard sees a wild goat that would make a good meal. But the goat is always on guard, so how can the big cat get close enough to pounce? With a tricky disguise called camouflage (KAM-uh-flahzh). As you can see in this photo, the leopard’s colors blend in with the surroundings almost perfectly, giving the cat a better chance of catching its dinner.
LOOK LIKE SOMETHING BORING
Stick trick. Do you see the stick mantis perched on a dead leaf? It looks like a dead twig! But when a clueless insect comes close, the mantis will snatch the creature with its spiky front legs and gobble it up.
Oh, poo! In flight, a wood-nymph is a wonderful sight. The moth’s white wings with beautiful markings flutter gracefully in the night sky. But when the moth lands and closes its wings, it looks like a yucky pile of bird poop. And that’s enough to send a hungry bird looking elsewhere for a meal.
LOOK LIKE SOMETHING TASTY
Bait and strike. A young fer-de-lance lures its prey into coming close. How? By wiggling the wormlike end of its tail. When a hungry frog or lizard approaches to check it out—ZAP!—the deadly snake strikes the curious animal with its fangs.
LOOK LIKE SOMETHING SCARY
“I’m big and mean!” A young long-eared owl would be easy prey for a hawk or other large bird. So, what can it do to save itself from attack? It can do what this owl is doing: fan out its wings, fluff up its feathers, and snap its bill. All of these things can help the owl seem a lot bigger and tougher than it really is.
SEE ME? NO PROBLEM!
Eye surprise. Here’s a male eyed hawk moth, resting on a tree branch. When his wings are closed, the moth looks a lot like a leaf, and that helps hide him from enemies. But that trick doesn’t always work, and now a hungry bird has seen him.
Just as the bird is ready to go in for the grab, the moth’s wings pop open. Whoa! Suddenly the bird’s prey has gone from a harmless moth to a big-eyed monster!
The bird—fooled by the fake eyes on the moth’s underwings—flies off to find less scary prey.
I’m hurt!” Birds called plovers (PLUH-vurz) don’t build nests in trees. Instead, they lay their eggs right on the ground. The eggs—and the newly hatched chicks—blend in well. And that makes them very hard for predators to see.
But sometimes an animal comes too close for Mom’s comfort. So, she droops her wing and flops around, acting as if she’s injured. That makes the animal follow her, since she looks like an easy catch. Once she’s led the animal away from the nest—zoom!—Mom Plover flies off, leaving the young ones safe and sound back at the nest.
Playing dead. Startled by the photographer, this grass snake flopped on its back, opened its mouth, and now lies motionless. It seems to be playing dead—an act that might fool predators into losing interest and moving on to more “normal” prey. But no one knows if this act really works in the wild, so this is one April Fools’ trick that remains a mystery!
"Fooled Ya!" originally appeared in the April 2017 issue of Ranger Rick
magazine. Click here for a close-up view of the photos.