Why Scientists are Tricking Birds With 3D Printed Eggs

A researcher from Hunter College in New York City is using 3D printing to trick mother birds into sitting on fake eggs.

Professor Mark E. Hauber wanted to learn more about robins, who often are bamboozled by larger cowbirds into sitting on their eggs for them.

So Hauber decided to use 3D printing technology to explore this question: “Why does the host accept the foreign egg and chick in its nest and how does the parasite trick the host to provide more food than its fair share?”

To learn more about robins, Hauber first printed a number of eggs in different sizes. Some, he painted like robin’s eggs. Others, he painted to look like cowbird’s eggs.

As a result of his study, he found the majority of the time – 79 percent – robins rejected the cowbird colored eggs. The hens also didn’t seem to care the size of the egg. If it was colored to look like a robin’s egg, the mama bird accepted it. If it was beige like a cowbird egg, the mama bird only accepted it 21 percent of the time.

While the study did help the researcher learn more about robin and cowbird eggs, it also helped prove another theory entirely.

Hauber’s 3D printed experiment proved that 3D printing could prove valuable way to study nature and behaviors, which as Hauber’s study pointed out, hints at the ways the ever-evolving technology can be applied in the research of  behavioral ecology, comparative psychology, and neuroethology in the years ahead.