The Nose Knows: Oriental Honey Buzzards Use Nose and Eyes to Forage for Sweet Treats

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Winnie the…Buzzard? The Oriental sugarine buzzard Pernis orientalis feeds essentially on sugarine and bee or wasp larvae. But how do they find their food?


In a winter, thousands of Oriental sugarine buzzards quit to Taiwan to forage. These migrating sugarine buzzards generally aim apiaries for a juicy provide not found in nature: “pollen dough.” Beekeepers make softball-sized balls of pollen mix from pollen, soybeans, and sugarine to feed their bees in winter when flowers are scarce.

The surprising coming of pollen mix (bright yellow, ideally round, and really distinct honeycombs or bee larvae) led these PLOS ONE authors to hypothesize that a sugarine buzzards competence be regulating their noses (olfaction) in further to visible sightings to brand a mix as food. Olfaction doesn’t seem to be really ecologically critical to other raptor species, so a probability that sugarine buzzards use their clarity of smell as good as prophesy to find food is exciting.

Specifically, a authors asked:

  • Can sugarine buzzards heed between visually matching doughs blank a specific food part (pollen, sugar, or soybeans)?
  • Are buzzards shabby by a pollen dough’s color?

To exam these hypotheses, a authors ran a array of margin experiments.

In their initial experiment, a authors focused on a buzzards’ ability to smell specific mixture in a pollen dough—specifically pollen, one of their sources of nourishment in a wild. To do so, a authors sundry a pollen, soybean, or sugarine calm between dual mix samples, yet kept a coming of both samples matching in terms of texture, brightness, and tone (yellow).

In a second experiment, a authors examined a buzzards’ faith on visible cues by varying a colors of dual intensity mix samples between yellow, black, and green. They kept a mixture of both mix samples a same.

The third and final examination was a movement on a initial experiment, where a mix was painted black instead of yellow.

The formula from examination 1 suggested that buzzards strongly elite pollen-containing doughs.

In a second experiment, all buzzards exclusively chose to eat yellow mix instead of black or immature mix as shown in a graph below.


The formula from a third examination corroborated adult examination 1’s results, with buzzards again preferring to eat pollen-containing mix over non-pollen-containing dough, even yet it was painted black, as shown in a graph.

Based on a formula from experiments 1 and 3, a authors predicate that sugarine buzzards cite pollen-containing mix over mix with no pollen added. It seems illusive that a ability to name between dual visually matching samples is formed on a buzzards’ ability to smell a differences.

The authors also looked during a olfactory receptor (OR) gene repertoire distance in a sugarine buzzard’s genome. The series of opposite scents a class can heed is related to a series of OR genes. Their gene research showed that a Oriental sugarine buzzard has a largest OR gene repertoire of a diurnal raptors—almost 5 times as vast as a OR gene repertoire of peregrine falcons or golden eagles!


Taken together, these formula advise that a Oriental sugarine buzzard uses both olfaction and tone prophesy when foraging for food. Additionally, a formula of examination 3 (where all mix samples were colored black) advise that olfaction competence cardinal over prophesy in cases where a dual senses seem to conflict.

While some-more work still needs to be finished to learn a border of a purpose olfaction plays in Oriental sugarine buzzards’ feeding strategy, it seems transparent that in this box a nose (or beak!) knows.

Source: PLOS EveryONE