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Rodent and bird pests display a variety of behavioral defenses against dietary poisoning that could be exploited for improvement in control. Such defenses include neophobia, primary food aversion, and learned food aversion. Particularly with pest birds, social learning can also facilitate the transfer of learned aversions. With the rodents studied, taste appears critical for the defensive behaviors, whereas, with birds, visual or visual/taste cues appear more important.
With pest rodents, objective assessments of taste properties of rodenticides and baits could lead to improved formulations and methodology for objectively evaluating masking agents, microencapsulation, and prebaits. Assessment of the potential of a rodenticide as an unconditioned stimulus in food aversion learning, of the bait as a conditioned stimulus, and of other attributes such as generalization of learned aversions and conditioned stimulus/unconditioned stimulus intervals could lead to improved baits, baiting systems, and repellents. Weaknesses in the behaviors (for example, continuation of grooming in the presence of the defenses) might also be further exploited in rodent control.
With pest birds, Batesian mimicry probably offers advantages over food aversion learning as the conceptual basis of repellency. Use of visual cues with repellents such as methiocarb might improve aversion learning. Differential responses of the common chemical sense in birds and mammals to some compounds (such as dimethyl anthranilate) might also be used to advantage in some control situations.
bait, Batesian mimicry, bird control, common chemical sense, food aversion learning, grooming, neophobia, primary food aversion, rodent control, overshadowing, salience, smell, taste, vertebrate pest control, vision
Wildlife biologist, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, assigned to the Monell Chemical Senses CenterDenver Wildlife Research Center, Section of Supporting Sciences, Federal Center, PhiladelphiaLakewood, Pa.Colo.
Assistant member, Monell Chemical Senses Center, Philadelphia, Pa.