Eastern bluebirds Sialia sialis do not avoid nest boxes with chemical cues from two common nest predators


  • Renee D. Godard,

  • Bonnie B. Bowers,

  • C. Morgan Wilson

R. D. Godard (correspondence) and C. M. Wilson, Dept of Biology, Hollins University, Roanoke, Va. 24020. E-mail: rgodard@hollins.edu. – B. B. Bowers, Dept of Psychology, Hollins University, Roanoke, VA. 24020, USA.


Chemodetection of common nest predators may be advantageous for nesting birds; however, few studies have examined the ability of songbirds to detect chemical odors from predators. Thus, in 2002, we presented eastern bluebirds Sialia sialis with pairs of nest boxes; one box in the pair was regularly scented with chemical cues from a common nest predator, the black rat snake Elaphe obsoleta, and the other with a neutral cue. In 2004, we again presented bluebirds with pairs of boxes, one scented with chemical cues from a different nest predator, the deer mouse Peromyscus maniculatus, and the other with a neutral scent. Although human females were able to correctly distinguish paper laced with predator cues from paper with neutral cues, bluebirds were as likely to lay eggs in boxes with predator cues as in boxes with neutral cues. While it remains possible that bluebirds may detect scent from potential nest predators, it appears that the presence of these chemical cues does not ultimately influence selection of nest sites.