Some important overlooked aspects of odors in avian nesting ecology

Shutler, D.

27 December 2018

Although outdated opinions about poor avian olfaction have largely disappeared in recent decades, there has been inadequate attention paid to olfaction of other organisms that interact with birds and their nests. In particular, olfaction is likely more important than vision for most many biting arthropods and for many reptilian and, mammalian, and likely even some bird predators of nests (e.g. some procellariiforms, piciforms, and corvids), but crypsis (or attractiveness) of nest odors has largely been ignored in the literature. Given the pivotal importance of nest success to a bird’s fitness, there has likely been strong selection to conceal inadvertent cues to nest locations, including odors. Here, I summarize what is known about this, and discuss a few important topics I deem worthy of deeper investigation.