Blue tits love the smell of perfumed nests!

French birds love the smell of perfumed nests. In an article published this month in Ecology Letters, scientists from the Centre National de Recherche Scientifique report that a small cavity-nesting bird on the island of Corsica, the blue tit, adorns its nests with fragments of strongly perfumed plants, including lavender and mint. The chemical compounds of these plants are economically important as they are used for aromatic house cleaners and herbal medicines. The researchers also discovered that these birds use odour cues to determine the frequency with which they recharge the nest with fresh aromatic plant material. The study provides the first experimental demonstration that a free-ranging animal makes use of smell to maintain an aromatic environment for its offspring with plants. It is hypothesised that the fresh aromatic smell of home may be as important for this bird as it is for humans, with olfaction employed so as to maintain a disinfected environment.

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