, Volume 28, Issue 1, pp 76–85 | Cite as

Pigeon odor varies with experimental exposure to trace metal pollution

  • Sarah LeclaireEmail author
  • Marion Chatelain
  • Anaïs Pessato
  • Bruno Buatois
  • Adrien Frantz
  • Julien Gasparini


Trace metals are chemical pollutants that have well-known noxious effects on wildlife and that are current major environmental issues in urban habitats. Previous studies have demonstrated their negative (e.g. lead) or positive (e.g. zinc) effects on body condition, immunity and reproductive success. Because of their effects on condition, trace metals are likely to influence the production of condition-dependent ornaments. The last decade has revealed that bird odors, like mammal odors, can convey information on individual quality and might be used as secondary sexual ornaments. Here, we used solid-phase microextraction headspace sampling with gas chromatography—mass spectrometry to investigate whether plumage scent varied with experimental supplementation in lead and/or zinc in feral pigeons. Zinc supplementation (alone or in combination with lead) changed the proportion of several volatiles, including an increase in the proportion of hydroxy-esters. The production of these esters, that most likely originate from preen gland secretions, may be costly and might thus be reduced by stress induced by zinc deficiency. Although lead is known to negatively impact pigeon condition, it did not statistically affect feather scent, despite most of the volatiles that increased with zinc exposure tended to be decreased in lead-supplemented pigeons. Further studies should evaluate the functions of plumage volatiles to predict how trace metals can impact bird fitness.


Scent Zinc Lead Birds Dove 



We thank the “Mairie de Paris” (Thomas Charachon) for allowing the capture of birds and the Centre de Recherche en Ecologie Experimentale et Predictive (CEREEP) which provided logistic support for the field work of this study. We are very thankful to T. Gayet, S. Pollet, S. Hasnaoui, F. Lorente, S. Perret and B. Decenciere for their help in field work.


This work was financed by grants from the local government (Ile-de-France: Sustainable Development Network R2DS, No. 2012–11 to JG), and from the “Agence Nationale de la Recherche” (No. ANR-13-PDOC-0002 to SL).

Compliance with ethical standards

All experiments were carried out in strict accordance with the recommendations of the “European Convention for the Protection of vertebrate Animals used for Experimental and Other Scientific Purposes” and were conducted under the authorizations of the “Ministère de l’éducation nationale, de l’enseignement supérieur et de la recherche” (authorization N_00093.02) and the “Direction Departementale des Services Veterinaires de Seine-et-Marne” (authorization N_ 77-05).

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

10646_2018_2001_MOESM1_ESM.docx (286 kb)
Supplementary Information


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratoire Evolution & Diversité BiologiqueUMR 5174 (CNRS, Université Paul Sabatier, ENFA)ToulouseFrance
  2. 2.Centre d’Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Evolutive (CEFE), UMR 5175CNRS - Université de Montpellier - Université Paul Valéry Montpellier - EPHEMontpellierFrance
  3. 3.Sorbonne Université, UPEC, Paris 7, CNRS, INRA, IRDInstitut d’Ecologie et des Sciences de l’Environnement de ParisParisFrance
  4. 4.Wild Urban Evolution and Ecology Lab, Center of New TechnologiesUniversity of WarsawWarsawPoland
  5. 5.Centre for Integrative EcologyDeakin UniversityVictoriaAustralia

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