do birds know when their eggs are dead

Mother birds communicate with their developing chicks before they even hatch by leaving them messages in the egg, new research by a team from the Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, has found.

By changing conditions within the egg, canary mothers leave a message for their developing chicks about the life they will face after birth. In response, nestlings adjust the development of their begging behaviour.

If chicks get a message that they will be reared by generous parents then they beg more vigorously for food after hatching. But chicks that are destined to be raised by meaner parents end up being much less demanding.

By attending to messages in the egg, nestlings gain weight more rapidly because they match their demands to the parents supply of food, and can avoid either begging too little or wasting effort on unrewarded begging.

The Cambridge team made the discovery using fostering experiments, exchanging eggs between canaries nests so that the chicks grew up in an environment that they were not expecting.

“This work changes our understanding of the pre-natal environment in birds,” says Dr Rebecca Kilner of the University of Cambridge, who led the research.

“Weve known for about twenty years that maternal substances in the egg can influence how chicks develop, but the common assumption is that they are a means by which mothers manipulate their offspring in a way that suits the mother more than the chick.

“What weve shown is the reverse: these substances are actually there to suit the chick. If we muck up the message in the egg experimentally, it is the chick that is penalised directly rather than the mother.”

The work was funded by the Natural Environment Research Council, and is published in Science on March 12, 2010.

Materials provided by University of Cambridge. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

The Natural Environment Research Council provided funding for this work, which was published in Science on March 12, 2010.

Nestlings that pay attention to the messages within the egg grow larger faster because they align their demands with their parents’ food supply and can prevent under- or over-begging.

When chicks hatch, they will beg more persistently for food if they receive the message that their parents will be giving to them. However, girls who are destined to grow up with harsher parents become far less demanding.

Through fostering experiments, in which eggs were exchanged between canary nests to provide the chicks with an environment they were not expecting, the Cambridge team made the discovery.

According to recent research, mother birds leave messages for their developing chicks in their eggs before they even hatch. The researchers were part of the Department of Zoology at the University of Cambridge.

I never believed that birds had a sense of smell, but research indicates that they do. I saw that @FluffyChicken If the dead smell was applied to the golf balls, that would be interesting. Perhaps the inanimate objects, with their small brains, are still worthy of incubation because they don’t emit a death scent?

In an intact egg, a dead chick embryo won’t break down the same way that other animals do. A number of factors effectively guard the egg’s interior from bacteria (Salmonella is a notable exception, but even it is rare). After spending its life in the wild, an animal develops a large population of bacteria in its stomach. These bacteria then work on the surrounding tissues when the animal dies, causing it to rot from the inside out. These bacteria emit the stench that we identify with death. The chick embryo has no intestinal flora.

A mother dove has chosen our window as the location for her nest, which is on a ladder. She We checked on the bird last night. Feathers were all over the place, indicating that a cat had probably gotten to her. Two tiny eggs, one broken, were visible on the ground close to the ladder. Then, in the hopes that the mother or father would return, my mom put the intact egg back in the nest. I observed the mother bird sitting in her nest this morning. Does a bird naturally know the state of its egg? Was it a good idea to put the egg back in her nest?

They sure don’t. They will even try to incubate things that aren’t eggs. I wish I could locate the video I saw of this study, but it involved putting objects like blocks, ping-pong balls, and fake eggs in seagull nests and watching the birds attempt to hatch them. Chickens will also do this; in fact, some chicken keepers will give a broody chicken ping pong balls to sit on in order to keep it occupied.

@mayratapia_ For a few years running, they did make use of the same nest. They would add to it as needed. This year, before I replaced the planter, they were cuddling in front of my house. One even landed a few feet away and was cooing. One came and stayed in there for a while after I put the planter back up, but I haven’t seen either of them in the past two days. This morning,I saw a Cooper’s hawk hanging around. I hope it didn’t get my buddies.


Do birds get sad when they lose their eggs?

While birds may not experience emotions in the same way humans do, there is evidence to suggest that they can exhibit behaviors that indicate distress or concern when their eggs are destroyed or lost.

What do birds do with unhatched eggs?

Usually the parents will dispense of any unhatched eggs either by pushing them aside, tossing them from the nest box or eating the eggs.

Do birds know when eggs are about to hatch?

Yes, they do. The same way I know when our eggs are fixing to hatch: the babies in the eggs start making tiny little cheeps, or the egg moves. Momma birds feel it as they sit upon the eggs.

Do birds throw dead babies out of the nest?

If a young bird dies, sometimes they are tossed out, sometimes they are crushed and stepped on by their living siblings and they just dry out in the bottom of the nest. All possibilities – leaving them be, tossing them out, eating them – occur in some instances.