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Bird Glossary - Smell

You put out a yummy concoction of peanut butter, raisins, shortening, cornflakes and seed for your woodpeckers. Do the birds of your back yard smell that the feast is ready?

Seed birds like chickadees and titmice donīt have strong senses of smell or taste. They have superb eyesight though, and they can see the fruits or seeds in the suet. Their olfactory lobe in their brain is much smaller, proportionally, than in other animals.

Why is this? Well, the things birds eat normally arenīt very odorous. With all of the other things birds have to do very well, and with their brain needing to fit neatly into their aerodynamic head, the smell and taste probably got left by the wayside long ago.

This works well for anti-sqirrel birders, though. Squirrels definitely have a good sense of smell and taste. Sprinkle some hot pepper into the seed and the squirrel will hate it, but the birds wonīt even notice.

Not all birds have this deficiency. Carrion birds are different, being able to smell out their prey from many miles away. For your average nuthatch or downy, though, a stuffed-up nose is just fine.

Birding Glossary

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