CZAAWE Resource Article

Thresholds for sweet, salt, and sour taste stimuli in cockatiels (Nymphicus hollandicus)
Publication Type 
Journal Article
Year of publication 
Zoo Biology
Abstract 10.1002/zoo.1001.abs Little is known about avian taste perception and how taste affects food choice. We designed a study to determine the concentrations of aqueous solutions of common chemical taste stimuli that result in altered consumption patterns. Using two-choice taste-preference tests, we studied the taste thresholds of caged cockatiels (Nymphicus hollandicus) for aqueous solutions of potassium chloride, a phosphate buffer (to test pH), fructose, and glucose. First, the preferred and nonpreferred bottle locations were determined for each bird. Then, depending on the compound, the test solutions were placed in bottles in either the preferred or the nonpreferred locations and water was placed in the opposite bottle. Four parameters were measured at the end of 3-day test periods (total consumption, consumption from water side, consumption from test solution side, and proportion of nonpreferred side consumption to total consumption). Experiments were repeated with increasing concentrations of test flavors until intake variables were significantly affected (P < 0.05). Cockatiels distinguished (P < 0.05) between purified water and 0.16 mol L–1 potassium chloride, 0.40 mol L–1 fructose, or 0.16 mol L–1 glucose. The test birds did not distinguish between water and 0.05 mol L–1 mono- and dibasic sodium phosphate buffer solution at any tested pH within the range of 4.9–7.7. When these findings are compared to previous experiments with the same birds, it becomes clear that the gustatory reactions of cockatiels for two different stimuli (e.g., NaCl and KCl) from the same general taste category (salt, sweet, sour) can vary widely. This variation in the responses to related stimuli could be the result of a number of factors including anion effects (for salts and acids) as well as nongustatory physiological processes (e.g., as renal control of blood osmolarity). Zoo Biol 20:1–13, 2001. © 2001 Wiley-Liss, Inc.