Date: 4/24/19 2:09 pm
From: Jim Moodie <jmoodie...>
Subject: [obol] Re: Bald Eagle olfactory prowess
Hi Paul,

It turns out that many, if not all birds, have a sense of smell, but their brains have been remodeled so that they don't show prominent olfactory bulbs (part of the brain dedicated to interpret scents from the nostrils).

Here is a link to an Audubon story about birds and smell:

Of course, the eagle might have blundered into the dumpster on an earlier visit and is now making a regular check, but it is certainly possible, given bald eagle's proclivity for carrion, that it used its sense of smell to locate the dumpster when it contained some fresh meat scraps.

Now I am going to have to develop a bird and scent lab for my students to try in my Animal Behavior class...thanks Paul!


Dr. Jim Moodie
Science Department

Spring Term Office Hours:
Wednesday 1:00 - 3:00 p.m. Science Center 287
Thursday 1:30 - 3:00 p.m. Science Center 287

From: <obol-bounce...> <obol-bounce...> On Behalf Of Paul Sullivan
Sent: Wednesday, April 24, 2019 10:48 AM
To: <obol...>
Subject: [obol] Bald Eagle olfactory prowess

I'm acquainted with the experiments that show that Turkey Vultures have a keen sense of smell. They can sniff out a putrid carcass hidden under a brushpile or otherwise visually obscured. Their method of foraging is to get up on the wing, ride the thermals, and pick up scent of rotting flesh. They also watch each other, If one bird goes down on something fragrant, others follow to participate in the feast. That's a known story.

This morning I participated in the Wednesday morning bird walk at Linfield College, led by Tom Love. It is right in urban McMinnville. About 8:30 we saw one, two, three Turkey Vultures start to get up and moving over the area north of campus. Then an adult Bald Eagle joined in. It circled over the parking lot between El Rancho Market and St. Vincent's second-hand store. It circled in tighter circles as if it was honing in on something. Eventually it landed in a tall Douglas fir. The market has an outdoor barbeque setup where they cook meat. We went over to investigate and found an open dumpster behind the market with evidence of meat waste.

We all remarked that we had never seen an eagle right in town like that. I went home and checked my records for our Rummel Street address - only a couple blocks from Linfield - and found only 3 sightings of Bald Eagle seen from this yard. I'm sure they were mainly off over the Yamhill River at the edge of town, not over the town itself.

My question is this. Do eagles have a keen sense of smell like turkey vultures? The bird showed clear signs of circling, honing in on that parking lot.

Paul Sullivan

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