Mother Birds Sing to their Eggs

Mother Birds Sing to their Eggs

Recent studies have shown that mother birds sing to their eggs while incubating them. Researchers found that bird embryos learn to identify the sounds of their species before they hatch from the eggs. They also found that the singing is deliberate and serves a purpose.

The reason mother birds sing to their eggs can’t be for their survival, because singing puts the mothers at risk from predators. Then what is the advantage of the singing? In addition to learning the songs of their species, the young birds learn to recognize unfamiliar songs produced by other bird species. The mother’s singing also affects the heart rate of the unhatched bird. All of the eggs in the study of unhatched baby birds showed a decrease in the babies’ heart rate when their mothers sang to them.

Previous research has shown that the heart rate of unborn humans also slows when the mother is in a stable situation and increases when the mother is under stress. Similarly, the researchers speculate that the singing of the mother bird aids the survival of the chick. The research co-author said, “Birds are like humans in that there is a mother- or father-offspring communication even before birth.”

The message is clear that the individual begins life and learning before being put into the world of self-preservation and survival. Mother birds sing to their eggs, and human mothers sing and talk to their babies before birth. In both cases, the offspring benefit. Whether a bird or a human, individual existence begins when life begins–not when the egg hatches or the baby is born.

— John N. Clayton ©

Reference: Science News, November 6, 2021, page 4.