Do insectivorous birds use volatile organic compounds from plants as olfactory foraging cues?

Traditionally, birds and especially passerines are thought to have poor sense of smell, but recent studies have shown that some birds use odour cues in e.g. predator avoidance. Few studies have investigated olfaction-mediated foraging by insectivorous passerine birds even though some studies indicate that birds use VOCs as olfactory foraging cues. To further test this olfactory foraging cues hypothesis, we conducted three experiments where birds were presented either with VOC supplements mimicking volatile emission from birch trees or odours of larval-defoliated and non-defoliated birches. We did not find support for the hypothesis, indicating that VOC-based olfactory foraging cues may not be necessary or the only foraging cues utilized by insectivorous passerines searching for herbivore-rich trees, at least not in the birch-dominated ecosystems studied.

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20.11.2015, Tuuli-Marjaani Koski