Do birds eavesdrop on predator communication? Experimental evidence for olfaction-based predator risk detection in red-legged partridges (Alectoris rufa) (#194)
Growing evidence suggests that birds can use olfactory cues to detect the presence of predators. We predict that the ability to gather information about predator presence through chemical cues might be particularly important for ground-living and foraging bird species, since their main predators, namely mammals and reptiles, use chemical communication. Therefore, we experimentally examine the role of olfaction in the non-domesticated ground-living red-legged partridge (Alectoris rufa). We offered three different types of olfactory stimuli involving predator odor, but also the alarm scent of an avian species, representing (i) danger; (ii) predator presence (iii) neutral smell, by scenting sand for soiling with either of the stimuli. Red-legged Partridges showed significant differences in the preferences for the three scents. Our results indicate for the first time that, in regard to risk assessment and similar to avian alarm calls, chemical cues may possibly act as a source of information on interspecific levels between avian species.