Wednesday, November 10, 2004

A Smart(-Alecky) Read

If a bird doesn't have a nose, how does it smell?


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"Actually, ornithologists believe that birds do have varying senses of smells, depending upon the species and the size of the nostrils, or nares, in the beak or bill. So-called tubenoses (such as the albatross) have very large nares, which allow them to detect the odor of fish oil slicks on the surface of the sea from as far as 15 miles away downwind. Pelicans, meanwhile, have extremely narrow, almost invisible nares, and almost no sense of smell. Ducks have pretty good sniffers, but they don’t use them to seek out food – they determine that mating season is nigh when they get a good whiff of pheromones.

The bird with the best sense of smell is one with very poor eyesight – the kiwi. The shoe polish icon has his nostrils at the tip of his beak, and he uses it to sniff out worms and grubs and other tasty morsels for his dining pleasure. Not surprisingly, second runner-up in the smelling game is the vulture, who uses a combination of sight and aroma to detect the nearest decaying carcass."

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