As regular CFZ-watchers will know, for some time Corinna has been doing a column for Animals & Men and a regular segment on On The Track... particularly about out-of-place birds and rare vagrants. There seem to be more and more bird stories from all over the world hitting the news these days so, to make room for them all - and to give them all equal and worthy coverage - she has set up this new blog to cover all things feathery and Fortean.

Monday, 20 June 2016

Baby Birds Learn Calls From Their Mothers While Still In The Egg


By Pat Leonard
June 9, 2016

Rather like an expectant human mother playing Mozart to her unborn child, some mother fairywrens call softly to their eggs. Now, two recent studies conclude that two species of fairywrens can hear their mothers and even learn elements of her calls while still inside the egg.

Imitating their mother’s calls may ensure they are fed as nestlings, helping to distinguish them from the cuckoo nestlings that sometimes show up in nests. Retaining key elements of her call throughout their lives may also serve as a family “password” long after the young have grown and are raising chicks of their own.

Fairywrens are small Australian songbirds. Nine species occur on the continent where they can be common suburban birds, in places as familiar as chickadees are in the U.S. The males are often brilliantly colored in glittering blue or red, and the species’ unusual breeding habits have made their behavior a popular research topic for decades.

A series of experiments on Superb Fairywrens led by Diane Colombelli-NĂ©grel and Sonia Kleindorfer of Australia’s Flinders University suggested the embryos were learning while still in the egg—contradicting a long-held view that embryos have limited learning abilities. Even among humans, it’s only been in the past few years that research has shown an unborn baby can begin to learn the sounds of speech when it is 30 weeks old.



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