Original Papers


, Volume 67, Issue 2, pp 169-176

First online:

Use of nest material as insecticidal and anti-pathogenic agents by the European Starling

  • L. ClarkAffiliated withMonell Chemical Senses Center
  • , J. Russell MasonAffiliated withMonell Chemical Senses CenterDepartment of Biology, University of Pennsylvania

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Passerine birds that reuse nest sites face an increased parasite and pathogen load. They also are more likely to use fresh green vegetation during nest construction. The present results demonstrate that at least one passerine, the European Starling: (a) selects a small subset of available plant species for inclusion in nest material; and (b) chooses plants whose volatiles are more likely to inhibit arthropod hatching and bacterial growth relative to a random subset of available vegetation. The results also show that preferred plants possess greater numbers of mono- and sesqueter-penes at higher concentrations relative to a random subset of available plants. These findings strongly suggest that starlings use chemicals in fresh vegetation as fumigants against parasites and pathogens.