Maternal Calls to Embryo

Project Details:

Principal Investigator: Prof. Dr. Sonia Kleindorfer

Funding: Australian Research Council

Programme: Discovery Project

Project Duration: Ongoing

Project Number: DP190102894

Bird nest in background, 3 human fingers holding small egg (about 1cm in size)

Picture: Sonia Kleindorfer

Research Objective

My team discovered in-nest calls by females attending their eggs. We discovered that maternal calls to embryos shapes vocal learning, neural architecture of the developing embryo, and subsequent lifelong learning of vocal complexity. The objective of this research program is to measure the effects of early life sound experience mediated by parents on growth, development, reproductive success and survival in vocal learning species.

Research Questions

How does prenatal sound exposure affect sound learning in ovo and after hatch? What ecological drivers affect maternal investment into offspring that shape teaching by parents and learning by offspring inside the egg?

Ein erwachsener Vogel im Nest

two hands holding tiny eggs

Two scientists at work in the field

Pictures: Sonia Kleindorfer


Dr. Diane Colombelli-Negrel, Flinders University

Dr. Andrew Katsis, University of Vienna

Dr. Lauren K. Common, University of Vienna

Many students and volunteers!

Key Literature:

  1. Katsis AC, Bennett ATD, Buchanan KL, Kleindorfer S, Mariette MM (2023). Prenatal sound experience affects song preferences in male zebra finches. Animal Behaviour. doi:
  2. Colombelli-Négrel D, Hauber ME, Evans C, Katsis AC, Brouwer L, Adreani NM, Kleindorfer S (2021). Prenatal auditory learning in avian vocal learners and non-learners. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society 376: 20200247.
  3. Antonson ND, Rivera M, Abolins-Abols M, Kleindorfer S, Liu W-C, Hauber ME (2021). Early auditory experience alters genome-wide methylation in the auditory forebrain of songbird embryos. Neuroscience Letters 755: 135917.
  4. Katsis A, Buchanan K, Kleindorfer S, Marriette M (2021). Long-term effects of prenatal sound experience on songbird behavior and their relation to song learning. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 75(1), 1-13.
  5. Rivera M; Cealie M; Hauber ME; Kleindorfer S; Liu W (2019). Neural activation in response to conspecific songs in zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata) embryos and nestlings. NeuroReport 30(3): 217-221. DOI:
  6. Kleindorfer S, Evans CE, Hauber ME, Colombelli-Négrel D (2018). Could prenatal sound discrimination predict vocal complexity later in life? BMC Zoology 3:11
  7. Kleindorfer S, Hauber ME, Colombelli-Négrel D (2017). Teaching behaviour is responsive and costly in fairy-wrens though the time course needs to be defined. Behavioral Ecology 29(1): e3-e4. https://10.1093/beheco/arx193