Not all songbirds calibrate their magnetic compass from twilight cues: a telemetry study

Nikita Chernetsov, Dmitry Kishkinev, Vladislav Kosarev, Casimir V Bolshakov
Journal of Experimental Biology 2011 August 1, 214: 2540-3
Migratory birds are able to use the sun and associated polarised light patterns, stellar cues and the geomagnetic field for orientation. No general agreement has been reached regarding the hierarchy of orientation cues. Recent data from naturally migrating North American Catharus thrushes suggests that they calibrate geomagnetic information daily from twilight cues. Similar results have been shown in caged birds in a few studies but not confirmed in others. We report that free-flying European migrants, song thrushes Turdus philomelos, released after pre-exposure to a horizontally rotated magnetic field, do not recalibrate their magnetic compass from solar cues, but rather show a simple domination of either the magnetic or the stellar compass. We suggest that different songbird species possess different hierarchies of orientation cues, depending on the geographic and ecological challenges met by the migrants.

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