why do birds turn their eggs

Why Do Birds Turn Their Eggs?

5-31-19 C. goose turning eggs 1B0A8783It’s common knowledge that birds periodically turn their eggs when they are incubating them, but have you ever stopped to ask why they do this. One assumes that if this action weren’t critical to the incubation process, it wouldn’t be practiced, and science bears this out. According to Audubon, birds turn their eggs to make sure the embryo gets enough albumen – the white part of the egg that contains water and protein and provides essential nutrients to the developing embryo. Too little albumen leads to an underdeveloped and often sickly chick. (Photo: Canada Goose turning eggs)

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If youve ever seen a bird nudge its eggs with its beak, you may have wondered what all the fuss is about. Turns out, the behavior is a critical part of incubation, and each species may have its own egg-turning recipe to hatch a healthy chick, a new study shows.

According to scientists, most birds rotate their eggs to make sure the embryo receives enough albumen, which is a protein and water mixture that forms the “egg white” portion of an embryo and gives nutrients to the growing chick. Research on domesticated birds reveals that an underdeveloped and typically sickly chick results from an inadequate amount of albumen. Because the adults are in the way by nature, not many studies have looked into egg turning in wild birds. “It’s difficult to observe what’s happening when albatrosses shuffle their feet in the nest,” notes Scott Shaffer, a biologist from San José State University in California.

Shaffer’s next goal is to compare related species in different environments, such as sub-Antarctic cousins of Hawaii’s albatrosses, “to see if habitat temperature influences turning rates, egg attendance, and egg temperatures.” Additionally, he anticipates that the egg loggers will contribute to the solving of other enigmas, such as how an adult being flushed off the nest disturbs the developing chick. Whatever he discovers, one thing is certain: maintaining an egg’s appearance requires a lot of work.

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Shaffer and his group secretly placed the fake eggs inside the nests of three different kinds of seabirds. They secretly placed 17 laysan albatross nests at Kaena Point, Oahu; another 17 laysan albatross nests among western gull eggs on California’s Año Nuevo Island; and 35 laysan auklets burrows on Southeast Farallon Island.

FAQ

Can eggs hatch without turning?

If the eggs are not turned at all during incubation, hatchabilty will drop to 20%-30% maximum.

What happens if you don’t stop turning eggs?

If you keep moving the eggs or they are not on their side, the babies will not be able to get into position to hatch.

Do all birds rotate their eggs?

Scientists believe that most birds rotate their eggs to ensure that the embryo gets enough albumen—the mixture of water and protein that makes up the “egg white” part of an embryo and provides nutrients to the developing chick.

How long can eggs go without turning?

Eggs must be turned at least five times every 24 hours. Turning more frequently is better and once per hour is best. Keep accurate records to ensure the eggs are turned three to five times each 24-hour period. Failure to turn eggs appropriately results in embryo death.