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Images: Seabirds Use Their Sense of Smell to Find Food

Gabrielle Nevitt, a neurobiologist and physiologist at the University of California, Davis, holds a rare Gould's petrel on Cabbage Tree Island in Australia. Nevitt found that the petrel and other birds called "tubenoses" locate their prey—tiny marine animals such as krill—by tracking the airborne scent of a gas (dimethylsulfide). It is released from tiny marine plants when krill graze on them. (Photo courtesy of Gabrielle Nevitt, University of California, Davis)

Wandering albatross, like this pair, spend little time on islands. Most of their time is spent soaring on their 12-foot wings over vast distances of the ocean, looking for food. These birds forage by navigating an "olfactory landscape" in the air above the sea, following a scent that tells them where their prey are congregating. (Photo courtesy of Gabrielle Nevitt, University of California, Davis)

Blackbrowed albatross share close quarters in a breeding colony in the rocky Falkland Islands. The parents (black and white, with pink bills) fly long distances seeking food by smell, returning to feed their large, downy gray chicks—as the bird in the middle left in this photo is doing. (Photo by Terry O'Dwyer, University of California, Davis)