Birds use herbs to protect their nests

05/18/04

NEW ORLEANS May 26, 2004 Researchers from Ohio Wesleyan University suggest that some birds may select nesting material with antimicrobial agents to protect their young from harmful bacteria. They present their findings at the 104th General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology.

"If the fresh herbs and plant materials that parent birds bring into the nest have a sufficient concentration of antimicrobial compounds, they could protect the nestlings from harmful bacteria," says researcher Jann Ichida.

To find out if plants brought into the nest might prevent disease, Ichida and colleagues tested twelve different volatile plant materials against feather-degrading bacteria. Results showed that several types of plant materials and extracts including usnic acid, ascorbic acid, yarrow, and two oak species inhibited the growth of a number of harmful bacteria.

"If the fresh herbs have a sufficient concentration of these chemicals, they could protect the nestlings from harmful bacteria," says Ichida. "By practicing medical botany, parent birds exercise effective home nest security and protect their offspring from select biodegrading microbes that affect the health of their young."

Source: Eurekalert & others

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