Olfactory enrichment and scent cue associative learning in captive birds of prey

Melissa Nelson Slater, Mark E. Hauber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


As the use of enrichment in zoos has become a standardized husbandry practice, the continued improvement of enrichment programs should be concomitant with empirical validation of those practices. The role of scent as enrichment remains an unexplored avenue for many bird species. We conducted a multi-phase experiment to introduce wrapped food packages and scent cuing to indicate food presence into the exhibits of several birds of prey species at the Bronx Zoo, New York City, to assess if scent can function as enrichment in these species. Our research found support for these birds associating a novel scent cue from a package with the presence of food inside. When tested with sham (empty) packages, these individuals more often and more extensively handled scented versus unscented packages. Overall, these results indicate the ability of some our small sample of individuals to learn olfactory cues and provide support for trials to include olfactory enrichment as a potential part of the daily routine for some birds of prey in zoo settings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)120-126
Number of pages7
JournalZoo Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • eagles
  • enrichment
  • olfaction
  • vultures

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology


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