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Birds and Sense of Smell

by Bob Sallinger

kgw.com

Posted on April 28, 2009 at 5:39 PM

Updated Wednesday, Nov 4 at 2:39 PM

A couple of people have asked whether the parents are likely to abandon their young if they are handled during banding. There is really almost no risk of abandonment. The bond between the parents and the young is very strong. Adult birds do not typically abandon a nest with young in it even under the most extraordinary circumstances. They will sometimes retreat while a threat is present, but they willl quickly return once the threat has been removed.

The belief that birds will not take care of their young that have been handled by humans because they can "smell" the humans is an old wife's tale. Most birds actually have a very minimal sense of smell. In fact, the only species that make significant use of their sense of smell are turkey vultures and pelagic (sea) birds. A lot of people bring young birds to our Wildlife Care Center after they have been found and handled by kids---they assume that because the birds have been handled, they will no longer be accepted by the parents. In fact it is fine to put them right back out where there were found. As soon as humans have left the immediate vicinity, the parents will resume normal care for the young.

View: Latest photos from the nest

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