USDA National Wildlife Research Center Symposia


Date of this Version

August 1995


Flavor aversion learning (FAL) occurs experimentally when a mammal is presented with a distinctive-flavored food followed by a postingestional illness. Birds may learn aversions to visual cues. Aversions follow a single pairing and may be robust. During the past decade, at least four directions were followed in evaluating FAL for managing wildlife damage: compounds already registered for use on crops such as herbicides, insecticides, or fungicides were tested for their abilities to also repel birds and small mammals from crops; naturally occurring compounds such as sucrose or charcoal were similarly evaluated; eggs were treated with different compounds in attempts to protect untreated eggs from predators; and FAL was used as a model for understanding bait shyness associated with some rodenticides. Use of registered pesticides, or naturally occurring and generally regarded as safe ones, reduces costs for registration, but also limits choices of potential repellents. No mammalian or avian repellents based on FAL are presently registered. Most research is based on a single model of FAL in which the flavor (or visual cue) is paired within 6 hours with postingestional illness, and that flavor or similar flavors (through generalization) are subsequently avoided. Other models of FAL, including those based on overshadowing and salience rather than generalization of learned aversions, might offer applications.