Do flashy birds taste worse than the skulkers?

Pied Kingfisher by Nidhin PoothullyThis is an interesting question that Hugh B Cott of Cambridge University tried to answer. By feeding various bird species to cats or wasps and observing their preferences he was able to get an idea about which species were preferred. He also included some taste preferences from people. His results indicated that more conspicuous species were second choice in terms of palatability to more cryptic species. This is all rather interesting. Is it possible that more obvious species taste bad? 

Here’s an excerpt from The Guardian

Surveying the results of all those taste tests of all those birds by hornets, cats and people, Cott saw both rhyme and reason. He concluded that, in most cases, humans and cats “agreed with the hornets in rating more conspicuous species as relatively distasteful when compared with more cryptic species … Birds which are relatively vulnerable and conspicuous … appear in general to be more or less highly distasteful – to a degree likely to serve as a deterrent to most predators”.

At the other extreme, birds that have especially inconspicuous or camouflaged appearance, Cott almost cackles, “are also those which are especially prized for the excellence of their flesh”. The list of these includes the Eurasian woodcock, skylark and the mallard duck.

Among the widely disliked were kingfishers, puffins and bullfinches. Cott cautioned his readers that “palatability may change with growth and age of the bird; and it differs markedly in different parts of the same individual”. [more here]

Is this finding perhaps related to aposematism, where dangerous animals are vividly coloured? Are there any biologists who can comment on this? This is what wiki has to say about aposematism: 

Aposematism (from apo- away, and sematic sign/meaning), perhaps most commonly known in the context of warning colouration, describes a family of antipredator adaptations where a warning signal is associated with the unprofitability of a prey item to potential predators.[1] It is one form of “advertising” signal, with many others existing such as the bright colours of flowers which lure pollinators. The warning signal may take the form of conspicuous colours, sounds, odours[2] or other perceivable characteristics. Aposematic signals are beneficial for both the predator and prey, who both avoid potential harm. [more here]

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