Biodiv Sci ›› 2022, Vol. 30 ›› Issue (11): 22219.  DOI: 10.17520/biods.2022219

• Reviews • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Research progress on olfactory communication in the social behaviours of birds

Chen Zeng, Yang Liu()   

  1. State Key Laboratory of Biocontrol, School of Ecology, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou 510275
  • Received:2022-04-24 Accepted:2022-07-06 Online:2022-11-20 Published:2022-08-17
  • Contact: Yang Liu


Background: Historically, it was believed that birds had a weak sense of smell or a lack thereof. Currently, the evidence of avian olfaction has been confirmed in several fields, such as anatomy, electrophysiology, molecular biology, and behavioural ecology. In this paper, we conducted a review of recent research progress on olfactory communication in social behaviours of birds.

Results:Our literature review found evidence of olfactory communication in birds from 14 orders and 33 families. Olfaction may play an important role in functions such as foraging, navigation, defence, crypsis, vigilance, and social interactions. Focusing on the role of olfactory communication in the social behaviors of birds, we presented key results from relevant studies in the last decade and reviewed the potential roles played by avian olfaction in species and individual recognition, breeding behaviors, kin recognition, mate choice, and competition.

Conclusions: Innovations in research methods and integrative approaches are urgently needed. Combining molecular biology, anatomy, physiology, ethology, and neurobiology may comprehensively reveal the complex mechanisms and social functions of avian olfactory communication.

Key words: olfaction, social behaviours, species recognition, kin recognition, mate choice