Birds that have a superior sense of smell

These birds have a great edge over other birds in the smell department

It is a known fact that most birds do not have a sense of smell as they have very small olfactory bulbs in their brains in relation to their overall brain size. The olfactory bulb is a neural structure that is located in the forebrain of vertebrates that involves “olfaction” i.e. the sense of smell.

These structures are not much in existence in most of the birds but however, there are few majestic feathered creatures that possess this quality of having a sense of smell. Here is the list of five such birds that can use their power to smell and use it in their respective benefits.

Brown Kiwi

The North Island brown kiwi is a small flightless bird found in New Zealand. It is mostly famous for having a unique long nostril which is on the end of their beak, rather than having it close to the base of the beak like all other birds. Now, having nostrils at the end of their beak helps them to sniff insects and worms when they dig deep into the soil. Their sensory pits at the tip of their beaks allow them to sense prey moving underground.

Storm Petrel

European Storm Petrel, commonly known as Storm petrel, is a seabird which flies far over the ocean. This phenomenon of these seabirds of flying high in the air has a reason and that is to detect the scent of tiny shrimps called krill that eats even tinier things under the water. Basically, these birds have the ability to smell chemical released by phytoplankton- the prey of krill when they eat it. The Storm Petrel use that scent to find the krill.

Turkey Vultures

Turkey Vultures are well known for having a strong sense of smell which sets them apart from other vultures. This has enabled them to be the most ubiquitous of off all the 23 species of vultures in the world. Their superior sense of smell comes from their large olfactory bulb which is responsible for processing odors. This enables the Turkey Vultures to excel in the smell department and create a niche among vultures that depended on olfaction.


Kakapo is an uncanny parrot found only in New Zealand. It is also known as night parrot or owl parrot. These flightless parrots have a very well developed sense of smell that is useful in their nocturnal lifestyle. Their ability to smell enables them to find each other in the forest. Interestingly, Kakapos have 667 functional olfactory receptor genes in comparison to about 400 in humans and 1000 in mice.

Dark-eyed Juncos

Dark-eyed Juncos are a type of sparrow having bright white feathers in their tails. They exhibit their sense of smell in courtship. The Juncos maintain their feathers by intermittently coating them with preen oil. Now, these preen oils have specific chemical composition that varies from one another. As a result, by means of smelling the preen oils these birds could tell the quality of the individuals that correlates with reproductive success .Hence, smelling the preen oil of a potential mate might be of a useful information for these birds.


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