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Radio-Tracking of Pigeons Previously Exposed To Random Oscillating Magnetic Fields

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image of Behaviour

Pigeons exposed to a random oscillating magnetic field prior to release from Bolgheri, 50 km SSE from their loft (near Pisa) were observed to behave in a consistent manner. Generally, the birds initially flew westwards, and all approached the sea with or without detours. Two interesting cases were pigeons 5 and 18 (see Fig. 1 ) which optically vanished east from the release site but none the less arrived at the coast. Subsequently, the pigeons were found to shift their orientation to the NNW, the homeward direction. Flight periods were regularly interrupted by pauses, but pigeons were not observed to correct their initial aberrant orientation after pauses. An actual flight of 5 to 10 minutes was necessary before they shifted their orientation homeward. Shift occurrence was found to be more related to distance reached from the release site than flight duration per se. We believe that a flight of a few km may have been sufficient to allow the pigeons to extract some needed piece of environmental information which then allowed them to locate the home direction.

Affiliations: 1: Istituto di Biologia generale dell'Università, Via A. Volta 6, 56100 Pisa, Italia


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