Intraspecific preen oil odor preferences in dark-eyed juncos Junco hyemalis
Whittaker Danielle, J.; Richmond, K.M.; Miller, A.K.; Kiley, R.; Burns, C.B.; Atwell, J.W.; Ketterson, E.D.
Behavioral Ecology 22.6 (Nov
ISSN/ISBN: 1045-2249 DOI: 10.1093/beheco/arr122
Most birds possess a uropygial gland that produces a secretion, preen oil, that contains volatile compounds that may transmit information about individual attributes. However, the ability of passerine songbirds to discriminate among the odors of different individuals has not yet been demonstrated. We tested whether dark-eyed juncos (Junco hyemalis) could discriminate among preen oil odors from 1) conspecifics and heterospecifics; 2) male and female conspecifics; 3) conspecifics from same or different population or subspecies; and 4) males with large or small plumage ornaments. Our evidence suggests that juncos can discriminate between the odor of conspecifics and heterospecifics. In 2-way choice tests between conspecific odors, both males and females spent more time with male preen oil. Subjects did not discriminate between odors of individuals from their own population or a different one, and no relationship was found between choice and plumage ornaments. Unexpectedly, females spent more time with the odor of males with smaller body size, regardless of population of origin. This result was especially surprising because an analysis of preen oil volatile compounds revealed that the odors of smaller males were less "male-like'' than the odors of larger males. We conclude that songbirds are able to detect odors from preen oil as shown by their ability to distinguish odors arising from males and females. They may also be able to distinguish among individuals of varying body size.