Danielle Whittaker will discuss her new book, “The Secret Perfume of Birds: Uncovering the Science of Avian Scent,” in a free Zoom lecture, at 7 p.m. Nov. 9.
The webinar, sponsored by the Santa Ynez Valley Natural History Society, includes a live presentation followed by Q & A.
A Zoom link will be emailed to SYVNHS members and posted online prior to the program. A recording of the presentation will be available online after the event.
As an evolutionary biologist, Ms. Whittaker was puzzled by the lack of evidence for the peculiar but widespread belief that birds have no sense of smell. Exploring the science behind the myth led her on an unexpected quest investigating mysteries from how juncos win a fight to why cowbirds smell like cookies.
She will share emerging research about birds’ ability to produce complex chemical signals that influence their behavior, including where they build nests, when they pick a fight and why they fly away. Mate choice or sexual selection — a still enigmatic aspect of many animals’ lives — appears to be particularly influenced by smell.
Ms. Whittaker’s pioneering studies suggest that birds’ sexy (and scary) signals are produced by symbiotic bacteria that manufacture scents in the oil that birds stroke on their feathers when preening.
She also examines the smelly chemicals of a variety of creatures, from iguanas and bees to monkeys and humans and will describe how scent is important not just for birds but for all animals, including humans.
Ms. Whittaker is an evolutionary biologist and the managing director of the Center for Oldest Ice Exploration at Oregon State University. From gibbons in Indonesia to the dark-eyed juncos of North America, her research focuses on the forces that influence animal behavior, mate selection and, ultimately, evolution.
To registerfor the webinar, go to us06web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_Uz-u7Y8ES8i5cfkuJmTy9w. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.
Here’s the link to the book page: www.press.jhu.edu/books/title/12467/secret-perfume-birds).
When you get your confirmation email after registering, you’ll also receive a code for a 30% discount on the book.