One of the most fascinating animals in New York State could be hiding in your backyard... and you'd never even know it.

It's almost like there's a "coolest trick" competition between animals in New York. Evolution has provided plenty of critters with amazing skills, and most of them can be filed under two categories: ways to get food, and ways to not become food. The "bird poop trick" is most definitely the latter.

A spicebush swallowtail caterpillar crawling on a leaf
The spicebush swallowtail looks like a snake and was the inspiration for the Pokémon Caterpie. Here's where you can find them in New York (Backyard Ecology via YouTube)

The spicebush swallowtail is a frontrunner for one of the most interesting insects in the world. The animal, which begins its life as a caterpillar, will eventually transform into the spicebush swallowtail butterfly, but the talents begin way before the metamorphosis.

A spicebush swallowtail caterpillar crawling on a leaf
The spicebush swallowtail caterpillar is one of the most fascinating creatures in New York State (
Backyard Ecology via YouTube)

The "final form" of the caterpillar (bright shades of yellow and green, above), has a claim to Hollywood fame. Pokémon fans might recognize that the animal is the spitting image of the character Caterpie (below). Young caterpillars, however, look much different.

The spicebush swallowtail caterpillar needs to survive long enough to turn into a butterfly, and it has developed several special tricks to do so. Older caterpillars hide in "leaf tacos" (explained below) during daylight hours to stay away from hungry predators, but baby caterpillars have a different trick: they camouflage themselves to look like bird poo.

Young caterpillars have a "shiny brown-black" coloration that blends in perfectly with bird droppings that are also commonly found on native plants (below). Since bird excrement isn't on any predator's menu, the strategy can help the spicebush swallowtail avoid becoming someone else's lunch.

Photo of bird droppings on a plant branch
This bird dropping could actually be a young spicebush swallowtail caterpillar using camouflage (Backyard Ecology via YouTube)

So the next time you think you see a gross pile of bird poo on your favorite plant, look closer. You may be face to face with one of New York's most impressive tiny creatures. Take a look at some other awesome local animals below.

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Gallery Credit: Jonah

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