Pheremones and Birds
Name: Pierre-Paul B.
Has there ever been research done to know if birds
secrete pheromones during breeding season ? If so, where can I get
more information ?
This is not my normal area of biology, but it is such a good question
that I looked into it a little. An ornithologist colleague told me that
she did not know of any literature on bird pheromones, and pointed out
that birds, in general, have a poor sense of smell. (There are notable
exceptions, such as vultures.)
I did finally come across a 1991 paper by Dr. P.F. Kolattukudy and
others in the Journal of Biological Chemistry. (volume 266, No. 15, pp.
9795-9804, 1991). In this paper and several subsequent ones in the same
journal, these researchers studied the cellular processes involved in
the production of diester waxes produced by the uropygial gland of
mallard ducks. They refer to a 1979 paper which reports that these
compounds act as pheromones in ducks:
Jacob J, Balthazart J, and Schoffeniels E (1979) Biochemical Systematics
and Ecology, volume 7, pp. 149-153.
Unfortunately, this paper is not immediately available to me, and it may
be in German, given that a couple of related papers by J. Jacob are
written in that language.
I did note that in a 1998 paper by Dr. Kolattukudy [THE JOURNAL OF
BIOLOGICAL CHEMISTRY Vol. 273, No. 46, Issue of November 13, pp.
30131-30138, 1998], his/her e-mail address is given. You might try
inquiring by e-mail. The address, at Ohio State University, is:
Good luck in your search.
P.S. - More information on the uropygial gland is available at
Another paper that I forgot to mention is "Pheromones are involved in
the control of sexual behaviour in birds" by J. Balthazart and E.
Schoffeniels, which appeared in Naturwissenschaften 1979 Jan;66(1):55-6.
I haven't had a chance to check, but it may be in German also.
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Update: June 2012