For two months this spring, the parents of a pair of California condors carefully cared for one giant egg. They took turns sitting on the eggs to keep them warm and rotating them regularly, behaviors thought to promote this. proper chick development.
what are birds part of breeding population The Oregon Zoo didn’t seem to realize the eggs were a tech scam. The 3D-printed plastic shell was filled with sensors designed to covertly monitor conditions inside the condor’s nest.
Over several weeks, the dummy eggs tracked nest temperatures, recorded the birds’ turning behavior, and recorded ambient sounds. The zoo hopes the data will help it better replicate natural conditions in artificial incubators, which are key to condor breeding efforts.
With a wingspan of nearly 10 feet, the California condor endangered. So each year, when birds lay their eggs, zoos move them from their nests to safe incubators. This strategy has several advantages, allowing some mating pairs to lay her second egg, allowing zoos to monitor embryo development, and protecting fragile embryos from condor abuse. I can.
“They tend to be more stressful during breeding season,” said Kelly Walker, senior condor keeper at the zoo. “And sometimes a pair fights in the nest chamber and accidentally damages an egg.” (The chicks are returned to the nest when they begin to hatch.)
The more closely a zoo can reproduce natural conditions within its incubator, the more successful it will be. So Walker enlisted the help of Scott Shaffer, an animal ecologist and bird researcher at San Jose State University, and Constance Woodman, an ornithologist and conservation technology expert at Texas A&M University. created a smart egg capable of data logging for many different bird species. Race.
Here’s how they produced condor eggs.
design an egg
Dr. Woodman created a digital model of a condor egg imitation. The shell had to be thin enough to allow internal sensors to detect temperature changes, yet tough enough to withstand potential bird abuse. (A macaw even threw one of Dr. Woodman’s eggs out of his two-story nest.) To keep the eggs from cracking, she attached a screwed shell half that screws on tightly. designed. “Without the thumb it stays closed,” she said. “Birds don’t have thumbs, so we’re fine.”
print the shell
Dr. Woodman used a 3D printer loaded with plastic specially selected to be safe for birds, as they can spend months sitting on eggs. “I’m not really going to poison the birds with good intentions,” she said. It took her 13 hours to print each cannonball.
To keep the eggs from spinning or wobbling, Dr. Woodman fed them to Loretta, a potty-trained “house turkey,” she said. “If Loretta doesn’t like it, she won’t sit.”
dye the eggs
Bird egg colors vary from species to species, and Dr. Woodman and Dr. Shaffer always strive to reproduce that as closely as possible. To match the subtle blue-green hue of condor eggs, Dr. Woodman dipped the shells in a pot of non-toxic children’s dye.
A small data logger is built into the shell to track the egg’s temperature and movement. A voice recorder will record sounds in the nest, which the zoo plans to play on the eggs in the incubator. “The developing fetus can hear things through the shell,” says Walker. And she used electrical tape to cover the electronics lights. “Otherwise it would have looked like a blinking Christmas egg.”
Some birds reject eggs that are unusually light. So Walker used a hot glue gun to stick stones to the inside of the eggs, making them weigh more than half a pound.
make an exchange
The first condor parent to receive a clever egg this year was a female known only as number 762 and her mate Antshaw. “He’s not the traditional great father,” Walker said. “We’re going to hatch as long as we need to, but he’s not thrilled about it.” (But Mr. 762’s devotion to him is undiminished.” I feel it,” Walker said.
When both birds left the nest, zoo staff transferred the real eggs to incubators and replaced them with fake eggs. The Condors didn’t seem to notice. (The chicks have since been reunited with their parents and are doing well, Walker said.)
analyze the data
After the breeding season, Dr. Shaffer and Ms. Walker will analyze the data. The research team hopes that the findings will help set up future incubators and help bring more California-her condor chicks into the world safely. “This is a really cool use of technology that will continue to improve,” Dr. Shaffer said.