U.S.: Researchers Try 3D Printing Bird Eggs to Study Bird Behavior

3D printing has been a fascinating subject since its development. People may wonder whether or not this 3D printing is for real. It may be easy to catch a fake if it was printed from a 3D printer. Well, scientists put it to the test. By 3D printing bird eggs, they tried to see whether or not the bird parents would recognize them as fake. Turns out, anything that comes out of a 3D printer looks just as real as the real thing.

Trying to Fool Mother Nature

In the world of birds, survival depends on laying eggs and protecting them, making it a rather fragile lifestyle. Sometimes, birds will use one another’s nest to raise their babies. Brood Parasites will drop their eggs into another bird’s nest and have them raised the babies before they hatch. Researchers have always wondered how birds can detect a fake in their nest and now they may have their answer.

Previously, wood and plaster were used to try to trick the birds into thinking eggs used in studies were real. Unfortunately, the making the fake eggs was time consuming and often flawed.

Trying the New 3D Printing Bird Eggs Method

This is where the idea to make 3D printing bird eggs came in. They modeled the fake eggs after robin and brown-headed cowbird eggs. Cowbirds are a well-known North American brood parasite. 3D printing is very precise and can even mimic the weight of the eggs.

Researchers based the eggs models off a photograph. The eggs were printed with about four layers on top of each other, and then a syringe was used to fill the eggs with water. Afterward, the outer layer of the eggs were sanded down, smoothed over and painted to copy the beige of the cowbird eggs and the blue-green of the robins’. The 3D printed bird eggs of the robin’s eggs were placed in a robin’s nest along with a fake cowbird egg. The behavior of the birds was recorded for about six days. Surprisingly, the robins completely accepted the fake eggs, but rejected almost all of the cowbird eggs.

Researchers Try 3D Printing Bird Eggs to Study Bird Behavior - Clapway

Realistic Eggs Help With Studying Bird Behavior

It is not the researcher’s intentions to trick the birds, but to learn from their behavior. Animal Behaviorists Mark Hauber of Hunter College of the University of New York was one of the researchers that worked with the Blender Foundation’s open-source 3D graphics to make the fake eggs.

Since the 1960s, biologists have used fake eggs for studying bird behavior. Now, with the ability of 3D printing bird eggs, it is possible to create the perfect fake egg. The 3D printing of eggs came about to learn how birds reject brood parasites. The birds who end up with brood parasites will respond in a variety of different ways. This raises questions for researchers regarding egg mimicry, the visual system of birds, as well as their ability to count, cognitive rules about similarity, as well as the mechanics of picking things up.