Olfactory assessment of competitors to the nest site: an experiment on a passerine species

Matteo Griggio, Gerardo Fracasso, Katharina Mahr, Herbert Hoi

Research output: Contribution to journalA1: Web of Science-article

Abstract

Since most avian species have been considered anosmic or microsmatic, olfaction and associated behavioural patterns have hardly been investigated. Most importantly, empirical data on avian olfaction is not equally distributed among species. Initial investigations focused on species with relatively big olfactory bulbs because they were thought to have better olfactory capabilities. Hence, in this study we tested the ability of house sparrows (Passer domesticus) to use chemical cues as parameters to estimate nest features. House sparrows are a commonly used model species, but their olfactory capabilities have not been studied so far. We offered two different odours to males and females, namely the scent of mouse urine (Mus musculus domesticus), representing a possible competitor and a threat to eggs and hatchlings, and the odour of hay, representing a familiar and innocuous odour. The experiment was performed at the sunset to simulate a first inspection to new possible roosting or nesting sites. Interestingly, males but not females preferred to spend significantly more time in front of the hay odour, than in front of the scent of mouse urine. Our results strengthen the hypothesis that oscines can not only perceive odours but also use olfaction to assess the environment and estimate nest site quality.

Original languageEnglish
Article number0167905
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume11
Issue number12
Number of pages9
ISSN1932-6203
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • ODOR RECOGNITION
  • PROCELLARIIFORM SEABIRDS
  • KIN RECOGNITION
  • BIRDS
  • PREDATORS
  • SONGBIRD
  • SCENT
  • PREFERENCE
  • AVOIDANCE
  • NAVIGATION

Cite this