George W's picture

Do birds have a sense of smell?

Observed: 28th January 2011 By: George WGeorge W’s reputation in BirdsGeorge W’s reputation in BirdsGeorge W’s reputation in Birds
Do birds have a sense of smell?

On the way back from shops this morning I noticed a group 5 or 6 Starlings stabbing at a plastic bag (of rubbish?). By the time I took my camera out of my pocket all but 1 had flown off. How did they know there might be something to eat inside the bag?

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anonymous spotter's picture

Birds sense of smell -

Most birds, like humans, rely primarily on sight. Some, such as tube-nosed seabirds (fulmar, for instance) do appear to have a good sense of smell. Songbirds probably do not have such a well-developed ability.
In this case, it is more likely experience than smell. Many birds will have encountered open or torn refuse sacks, and learnt that there are often good things inside.
Some birds have worked out how to haul up the bin liners from inside open refuse bins around fast-food places and car-parks, so that they can get at the left-over burgers.

George W's picture


RogerR - Thanks for the info.