The Chemistry of Avian Odors: An Introduction to Best Practices

Gabrielle A. Nevitt, Paola A. Prada

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

6 Scopus citations


The sense of smell in birds is enjoying a renaissance of enthusiastic research and popular attention. With avian chemical senses experiencing a hey-day, there have been several recent reviews of avian olfaction. This chapter introduces readers to potential sources of avian scent, and provides an overview of functional chemistry necessary to understand the literature. It reviews analytical techniques focusing on understanding best practices, and highlights representative studies that have used these methods appropriately. Several different physiological sources contribute to the scent of any given bird. Avian skin is distinguished from that of other terrestrial vertebrates by its lipophilic properties. The scent of a bird is generally a complex fragrance made up of a suite of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Identifying these VOCS and their relative contributions to a species' or individual's scent is central to understanding their chemical nature and their potential biological source.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHandbook of Olfaction and Gustation
Subtitle of host publicationThird Edition
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9781118971758
ISBN (Print)9781118139226
StatePublished - Jun 4 2015


  • Avian chemical senses
  • Avian olfaction
  • Avian scent
  • Lipophilic properties
  • Terrestrial vertebrates
  • Volatile organic compounds (VOCs)


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