Magnetic Sense of Birds

  • Author: ChemistryViews
  • Published: 01 March 2013
  • Copyright: Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim
  • Source / Publisher: Max Planck Gesellschaft, Munich, Germany
thumbnail image: Magnetic Sense of Birds

During migration, birds navigate using both a genetically inherited sense of direction and a magnetic sense that enables them to use the Earth's magnetic field lines to work out their location. The strength of this magnetic field varies from the poles to the equator, thus providing information as to where exactly a bird is at a specific moment in time. It was previously unclear whether they also used their experience to find the way to their destination.

A team of scientists lead by Richard Holland, Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, Radolfzell, Germany, exposed robins (Erithacus rubecula) on a migration stopover to a strong magnetic pulse. This temporarily disrupted their magnetic sense. As a result, the orientation of birds with prior migratory experience became less precise. By contrast, the precision of departure direction in juvenile birds, which were migrating for the first time, was not affected.

The location of the receptor for the magnetic information is still unclear. It has been proposed that the birds have ferrimagnetic particles in their beaks; others suggest systems in the eye or in the balance apparatus of the ear.

Image: ©: Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, Radolfzell, Germany

Article Views: 2060

Sign in Area

Please sign in below

Additional Sign In options

Please note that to comment on an article you must be registered and logged in.
Registration is for free, you may already be registered to receive, e.g., the newsletter. When you register on this website, please ensure you view our terms and conditions. All comments are subject to moderation.

Article Comments - To add a comment please sign in

Bookmark and Share

If you would like to reuse any content, in print or online, from, please contact us first for permission. more

CONNECT: on Facebook on Twitter on YouTube on LinkedIn Sign up for our free newsletter

A product of ChemPubSoc Europe (16 European Chemical Societies)and Wiley-VCH