Blending In (JHARVNC)


How do animals use camouflage? Participants will learn about animals “blending in” with their natural surroundings and how camouflage adaptations have helped animals survive.

Grade Level:

K - 12

Recommended Setting:

Inside discussion, outside for game

Outdoor Activity:



Janet Huckabee Arkansas River Valley Nature Center, Fort Smith


Education Program Coordinator, 479-452-3993


30 - 45 minutes

Suggested Number of Participants:

25 - 30 per group

Special Conditions:

Weather Permitting, outdoor activity


  • Participants will discuss animal needs
  • Participants will discuss animal defenses such as body armor, warning behaviors, chemical defenses, mimicry and imitative markings, and camouflage
  • Discuss camouflage and behaviors associated with survival
  • Discuss camouflage in animals, birds and insects
  • Discuss predator and prey relationships due to camouflage

Key Terms*:

Animal needs
Ecological niche
Limiting factors
Natural defenses

*See glossary for definations


Camouflage blankets

Hats, both camouflage and orange

Solid brown and bright-colored blanket (orange or red)

Hunter orange vests

Use participants’ colored clothing

Wooded area to set out props


Survival is the key to playing the game of life. Figuring out how to survive depends on experience, instincts and genetics. (See glossary for term definitions.) Today we are going to talk about an animal’s art of blending in and why it is necessary in playing the game of life.

Animal Needs
  • An animal’s life is affected by many factors.
    • Food
    • Cover
    • Water
    • Space 
    • Arrangement
  • Food, cover, water, space and arrangement determine an organism’s ecological niche – the position of a species in the environment. Due to these needs, plants and animals have developed many natural defenses against predators. Let’s discuss some of their physical properties.

Natural Defenses

  • Armor
    • Armadillo
    • Rolly polly
    • Turtle
  • Warning behavior
    • Snake shaking its tail
    • Posturing
      • Deer stomping its front feet and flagging its tail
      • Skunk turning its rear to perpetrator
      • Beaver slapping its tail on the water
      • Squirrel barking in the tree
  • Chemical devices – toads that secrete body irritants and taste bitter
  • Imitative markings – eye spots
  • “Batesian” mimicry – animal physically resembles a bad-tasting or stinging model
  • Concealment by hiding and camouflage

What is Camouflage?  (Definition from The American Heritage Dictionary)

  • It is defined as "The method or result of concealing personnel or material from an enemy by making them appear to be part of the natural surroundings.”
  • It breaks up the animal’s silhouette.
  • Do animals have enemies?
    • Predators are animals that eat other animals.
    • What are some of Arkansas’ predators?
  • Why would an animal want to be camouflaged?
    • Safety from predators
    • Protect their young or eggs

Camouflage in Animals

  • What makes up the patterns?
    • Genetics of the species
    • Patterns created by hair
      • Functions of hair
  • Color scheme
    • Changes due to time of year
      • Light in summer
      • Dark in winter
      • Counter-shading
    • Green
      • Usually an animal that is good to eat
      • Will be eaten if gets out of its cover
      • Example is caterpillar
    • Orange
      • Usually a warning sign
      • Frightens off would-be predators
      • Sometimes only appears suddenly
  • Uses of camouflage
    • Protection and concealment
    • Breaks up the silhouette
    • Conceals the young
      • Behavior (young taught to hide, not move)
    • Warning
      • Skunk
    • Mimic other predators

Camouflage in Birds

  • Female is drab color
  • Male is colorful to attract female
  • Eggs are spotted
  • Eye stripes – predators key in on the eyes and head (Canadian Goose)

Camouflage in Insects

  • Mimic – must do this in order for it to work
  • Walking stick – treehopper looks like a thorn
  • Imitate
    • Eye spots
      • Deflects attack
      • Intimidates predator
    • Colored like bees or wasps – stinging insects
  • Recognition (Monarch butterfly)


  • Do predators use camouflage?


  1. Participants will start in the classroom, discussing animal needs. These five factors will determine an animal’s habitat and ecological niche.
  2. Next, participants will learn and discuss natural defenses used by animals with examples of each.  Examples can be pictures, Power Point slides or actual animals.
  3. Participants will discuss what it means to be camouflaged. Participants will discuss why animals are camouflaged and the behavior associated with camouflage. Participants will also explain differences in predator/prey relationships.
  4. Participants will discuss camouflage in animals such as genetics, patterns, color schemes and warning colors.
  5. Discuss camouflage in birds and why there are differences between male and female birds.
  6. Discuss camouflage in insects. Cover behavioral aspects such as to mimic or imitate to scare off predators and recognize warning colors by predators.
  7. Discuss why predators are camouflaged.
  8. Game (optional): Use a wooded or covered area.  Place the articles in the woods.  Articles can be stuffed animals, pelts, skulls, turtle shells, antlers, hats and colored blankets. Place some of the articles in easily seen areas and others farther away in some cover. Use the natural camouflage to hide some of the animals or other articles. Give the class enough time to look over the area and see how many hidden props they can find.


  • List the five animal needs.
  • What is an animal’s niche?
  • What are some examples of natural defenses?
  • What is camouflage and the behavior associated with camouflage?
  • What are some warning colors in nature?
  • Why do male and female birds have different color schemes?
  • Why does an animal need to be camouflaged?
  • Where does a predator attack its prey?

Participant Worksheets:

Teacher made worksheet


Animal needs – food, water, oxygen, shelter and protection from the changing environment


Camouflage – colors, tones, patterns, shapes or behavior an organism uses to blend in with its surroundings: also concealment that alters or obscures the appearance; also protective coloration, a common animal defense


Ecological niche – the relational position of a species or population in an ecosystem; includes how a population responds to the abundance of its resources and enemies


Experience – active participation in an activity or exposure to events or people over time, increasing in knowledge and skill


Genetics – branch of biology that studies heredity and its variations


Habitat – an arrangement of food, water, shelter or cover, and space suitable to animals’ needs


Instinct – a natural pattern of activity or tendency to action common to a given biological species


Limiting factors – elements that affect the amount of wildlife a habitat can sustain, including food, water, space, predators, disease and pollution


Natural defenses – highly specialized weaponry developed on-the-spot to target aggressive invaders in body systems; ability of cells to adapt to disruptions of their basic division machineries


Population – all the members of one species in a particular area


Posturing – in wildlife, a pose or stance which communicates with members of the same species, other wildlife or with humans and may be used for defense or mating


Predator – an animal that hunts and kills other animals, usually for food


Prey – an animal that is killed and eaten by another animal