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IN FRATERNAM MEAM
Monday, September 13, 2004
HOW PIGEONS REALLY GET HOME
(abstracted from the Animal Behavior from NATGEOMAG)


HOMING PIGEONS are known for their uncanny internal compass, yet a new study reveals that sometimes the birds get home the same way we do: They follow the roads.

Tim Guilford and Dora Biro at England's Oxford University followed pigeons in Oxford over a three year period, using tiny tracking devices equipped with global positioning system technology developed by Swiss and Italian colleagues. "We expected the birds to take the most energy efficient route," says Guilford. "And we were interested in finding out what land features they used to do that."

What they discovered was surprising. Within ten kilometers of home, the pigeons relied less on their well known talents for decoding the sun's position or deciphering the Earth's magnetic field to help them navigate. Instead they opted for a habitual route that followed linear features, rivers, railways and hedge lines -- even when it was'nt the most direct way home.

"It was almost comical", says Guilford. One pigeon follwoed a road to a roundabout, then exited onto a major road that led to a second roundabout. Others flew down the River Thames, only to make a distinct turn at a bridge.

Guildord suggests that sticking to a memorized, linear route may actually make homing more reliable -- and easier. "It made me smile to see it," says Guilford."You can imagine yourself flying along a road doing the same thing".(Whitney Dangerfield)
posted by infraternam meam @ 1:17 PM  
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Name: infraternam meam
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About Me: I am now at the prime of my life and have been married for the past 25 years. Sickly at times, but wants to see the elixir vita, so that I will be able to see my grandchildren from my two boys.
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