Sep
03

Update on Breeding!

We have been breeding birds since the Spring to increase our experiment sample size. Originally, we had pairs in separate cages and monitored their nests twice every week. However, we didn’t have much success with breeding this way. We had gotten some nestlings (chicks in the nest) and fledglings (chicks after they fledge, or leave, the nest), but not as many as we had hoped. So, we set up a free-flight breeding room at the end of the summer which tends to increase success and abundance of chicks. We set up a room inside the aviary with nest boxes, food, water, and bushels of hay tied together (it is important to keep the hay sticking up on the ground so the birds can pull pieces out and make their nests themselves). I came back after a couple weeks off and we now have a bunch of new clutches and some new fledglings! Exciting!

Here are some fun facts about zebra finch breeding:

Zebra finches can breed all year long….that is one reason why they are such a great model organism!

Females can lay up to 8 eggs in a clutch ( usually 3-6)…she lays one egg a day until clutch is complete and them begins to incubate them once the last one is laid

Eggs begin to hatch within 12-15 days after incubation…if doesn’t hatch in 20 days, it is infertile

Chicks are usually weaned (removed from cage with parents) between 4-6 weeks…..this is around when they start gaining their orange beaks and in males, orange plumage

The birds will not be sexually mature until at least 2 months old

Comments

  1. Hi Sophia! This was a really cool blog post, especially thanks to the fun facts that you added in at the end. I learned some pretty cool information about breeding zebra finches, which makes your post and your project as a whole a bit easier to grasp for someone with very little background knowledge about birds.

    I also enjoyed reading the first part of your post, where you mentioned changing your breeding tactics to improve the outcomes and get more chicks hatching. When you initial methods didn’t work, it was very smart of you to try something new and switch from the enclosing of the breeding pairs in cages to the free-flight breeding room. I was just wondering if this change in breeding environment affects how you can use these new birds in your experimental sample set: because some were hatched using method 1 (the enclosed pairs) and others were hatched using method 2 (the free-flight room) they technically have some differences! Can you still use both sets of finches in your experiment? Why or why not? What impact does their different modes of breeding/hatching have on them as experimental models?

  2. This research sounds fascinating and the fact that you are able to breed your own finch sample populations is really neat! I have a few questions for you regarding this breeding and aging of the finches. Does the age of the finch factor in at all to the aggression it displays? I don’t know very much about finch population social dynamics, but I’m curious as to whether or not the new hatchlings that are exposed to the noise pollution for longer will end up displaying heightened/lower degrees of aggression compared to the adults that are already in the study that won’t have experienced the noise pollution since birth. Is age something that could inherently vary aggression levels regardless of exposure to noise pollution, and if so, how will you account for that in your data analysis once they are exposed? Thank you and I look forward to reading more updates!

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