Hiding in plain sight

The weather at this time of year, with its gray overcast and monotonous gray, brown, and white color scheme, is perfect for hiding wildlife in plain sight — at least from my eyes.  Animals that would stand out against a green summer background disappear into the landscape, and I’ll use that as an excuse for why my posts have been so infrequent of late. A few examples:


There is an owl shown roosting in the middle of this photo — but it might go completely unnoticed by the casual passerby.

barred-owl-sleeping in the daytime

With the telephoto, you can see this Barred Owl much better.  Its mottled plumage on wings and back and stripes on its breast helps it blend into the background until you get right up close to it.  An example of disruptive camouflage that is so effective in hiding in plain sight.

ruffed grouse female

A female Ruffed Grouse foraging along the roadside in the spring is highly obvious.

A male Ruffed Grouse drumming to attract attention in the fall stays hidden (left center) in the fall leaf litter and twigs.  Photo by Laura.

A male Ruffed Grouse drumming to attract attention in the fall stays hidden (left center) in the fall leaf litter and twigs. Photo by Laura.


Standing like statues when they hear or see you coming, the gray-brown winter fur of White-tailed deer camouflages them well in the woods.  Unless they wave their white flag tails at me, I might never notice they were there.

deer camouflage

Even in the summer and fall, deer can remain hidden in plain sight in tall prairie grass. I copied the image on the left into the original photo to illustrate how well the rusty brown summer fur coat blends into the background.

It isn’t just the prey species that utilize camouflage effectively — predators do too.

great horned owl camouflage

Sitting close to the branches of an oak, Great Horned Owl plumage blends in not only with the bark but the color of the fall leaves as well.  Sitting quietly, they might hope to avoid the harassment from a wandering pack of crows.

great horned owlet camouflage

The little owlet, however, is vulnerable to predation and its plumage matches the branches it sits on extremely well.

coyote in winter

The mottled coloration of Coyote fur stands out against snow, but blends in well when the animal is stalking prey through the yellow-brown vegetation in the winter.


Letting that snow accumulate on top of its dense fur, however, is a great way to hide in plain sight during the winter.

If camouflage is such a great way to remain hidden, then how do some animals get away with flagrantly advertising their presence?  But that’s the subject of a different post.


10 thoughts on “Hiding in plain sight

  1. Great examples of talented camouflage artists. I find that Barred Owls are equally well-hidden on beautiful sunny days, at midday, here in Florida – there is just something about their hiding abilities. Love that fantastic shot of Mr. Always-out-there-being-seen Cardinal!!

  2. Oh what a treat! Owls are one of my favourite creatures, these wintry scenes are magical! Looking forward to more backyard biology and star gazing in the new year on your blog 🙂 All the best for the festive season to you and your family!

  3. Pingback: Crypsis | Back Yard Biology

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