Washington, Mar 9 : A collaborated study led by American and French researchers has found that wandering albatrosses rely heavily on their sense of smell to find food.
They found that the birds were capable to pick up the smell of food from several miles.
"This is the first time anyone has looked at the odour-tracking behaviour of individual birds in the wild using remote techniques," said Gabrielle Nevitt, study author and professor of neurobiology, physiology and behaviour at UC Davis.
For the study, the team fitted the Albatrosses in Possession Island in the South-western Indian Ocean with GPS receivers that traced their exact position every 10 seconds and stomach temperature gauges that noted every meal.
And when the birds returned to land after a foraging trip, they removed the equipment and downloaded the data.
The researchers found that the birds usually flew across the wind that allowed them to cross trails of scent drifting downwind.
The birds sometimes fly straight to food and almost half the time would either turn upwind or zigzag into the wind toward a meal.
According to the researchers, both the patterns implied that the birds were following a trail of scent, rather than visual cues.
Birds could turn upwind toward a food source several miles away and well over the visual horizon.
"Hunting by scent allows the albatross to cover a strip of ocean several miles wide as it flies crosswind," said Nevitt.
The study is published online by the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.