Emu Emu Society
Journal of BirdLife Australia
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Olfactory sensitivity in Kea and Kaka

Anna C. Gsell A C , Julie C. Hagelin B and Dianne H. Brunton A
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Ecology and Conservation Group, Institute for Natural Sciences, Massey University, Private Bag 102-904, North Shore Mail Centre, Auckland, New Zealand.

B Institute of Arctic Biology, University of Alaska, Fairbanks, AK 99775, USA.

C Corresponding author. Email: a.c.gsell@massey.ac.nz

Emu 112(1) 60-66 https://doi.org/10.1071/MU11052
Submitted: 12 July 2011  Accepted: 31 October 2011   Published: 24 February 2012

Abstract

The olfactory capabilities of birds have been vastly underestimated. We investigated the sense of smell of a captive group of New Zealand endemic parrots and found strong support for the hypothesis that both species can detect odour. Our aim was to assess whether Kea (Nestor notabilis) and Kaka (N. meridionalis) display varying behavioural responses to different types and concentrations of scent in comparison to controls. Video monitoring was used to measure parrot visits to scent stations compared with controls and to assess any tendency to explore novel odours. Although our sample sizes were small and individual responses varied, both species showed an ability to distinguish between scents and controls and to detect novel scents. We can conclude that both Kea and Kaka have functional olfactory abilities and we hypothesise that scent plays a significant role in their ecology.

Additional keywords: flavour, olfaction, odour, parrots.


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