Can Chicks Communicate Before They Hatch?

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Researchers at the University of Cambridge's zoology department have found that nesting mother birds do communicate with the embryos inside their eggs, though not through vocalizations or any other standard form of communication. Rather than Tweeting or tweeting, the mother birds in the study, which were all canaries, deposited hormonal information in their eggs that lets chicks know how well their parent will provide for them once they have hatched. The motivation behind this form of communication is related to a parental desire to control begging behavior in the chicks; if the embryonic chicks receive information that they will be well fed once they are free from their eggs, they may beg for food less aggressively.

The canary mothers' attempts to control begging behavior come not from a desire for peace and quiet but from a desire to see their chicks thrive. The hormonal information in the egg is thought to help the chick understand how abundant food is, helping the hatchling conserve energy by not begging too much when food is scarce. The chicks will not miss out on available meals by not begging enough when food is plentiful either. In other words, this means of communication has developed to assist the chick rather than the mother.