In order to identify genes responsible for complex traits, including vocal learning, we have been working with consortiums of scientist to sequence genomes of birds with and without traits of interest, and across the avian family tree. We participated in the genome sequencing of the zebra finch (Warren et al 2010 Nature), a songbird, which allowed for the identification of genes associated with vocal learning brain structures in this species. We sequenced the budgerigar genome, a parrot, and through our efforts it was used as an example genome to advance the development of different next generation sequencing technologies (Pacbio, Roche 454, and Illumina) and genome assembly algorithms on vertebrate species (Koren et al 2012 Nature Biotechnology; Bradnam et al 2013 GigaScience; Ganapathy et al 2014).
We are now leading an international effort to sequence the genomes of at least one species per avian order, including all vocal learners and their close vocal non-learning relatives. The leaders of the project include Erich Jarvis from Duke University, Guojie Zhang from BGI, and Tom Gilbert from the University of Copenhagen. The project is being done in collaboration with the G10K consortium and individual investigators from around the world. The publications from this project will be released in December 2014, and this site updated at that time.