Interactions in the flexible orientation system of a migratory bird

Article metrics

Abstract

MIGRATING birds rely on interacting compass senses: magnetic, star, polarized light and perhaps Sun compasses1,2. During the development of orientation mechanisms, celestial rotation of stars at night3 and of polarized skylight patterns during the day time4 provide information about true compass directions that calibrates the direction of migration selected using the magnetic compass3–11. It might often be advantageous to adjust the magnetic preference by a geographic reference, especially at high northern latitudes where magnetic declination is large. Paradoxically, a magnetic preference so calibrated will be reliable only within a region of similar declination unless magnetic orientation remains open to calibration in older birds, something that earlier studies suggested was not the case1,2. We report here that in the Savannah sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis) the same sort of calibration of magnetic orientation found in very young birds also occurs in older individuals exposed during the migration period to clear day and night skies within a shifted magnetic field.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

from$8.99

All prices are NET prices.

References

  1. 1

    Wiltschko, W. & Wiltschko, R. in Orientation in Birds (ed. Berthold, P.) 16–37 (Birkhauser, Basel, 1991).

  2. 2

    Able, K. P. Trends Ecol. Evol. 8, 367–371 (1993).

  3. 3

    Able, K. P. & Able, M. A. Nature 347, 378–380 (1990).

  4. 4

    Able, K. P. & Able, M. A. Nature 364, 523–252 (1993).

  5. 5

    Able, K. P. in Orientation in Birds (ed. Berthold, P.) 166–179 (Birkhauser, Basel, 1991).

  6. 6

    Able, K. P. & Able, M. A. J. comp. Physiol. A (in the press).

  7. 7

    Wiltschko, W., Daum, P., Fergenbauer-Kimmel, A. & Wiltschko, R. Ethology 74, 285–292 (1987).

  8. 8

    Bingman, V. P. Behaviour 87, 43–53 (1983).

  9. 9

    Bingman, V. P., Beck, W. & Wiltschko, W. in Migration: Mechanisms and Adaptive Significance (ed. Rankin, M. A.) 544–552 (Marine Sci. Inst, Univ. Texas, Port Aransas, 1985).

  10. 10

    Able, K. P. & Able, M. A. Anim. Behav. 39, 905–913 (1990).

  11. 11

    Prinz, K. & Wiltschko, W. Anim. Behav. 44, 539–545 (1992).

  12. 12

    Bingman, V. P. Anim. Behav. 29, 962–963 (1981).

  13. 13

    Able, K. P. & Able, M. A. Ethology 93, 337–343 (1993).

  14. 14

    Moore, F. R. Anim. Behav. 28, 684–704 (1980).

  15. 15

    Moore, F. R. Anim. Behav. 33, 657–663 (1985).

  16. 16

    Kirschvink, J. L. Bioelectromagnetics 13, 401–411 (1992).

  17. 17

    Emlen, S. T. & Emlen, J. T. Auk 83, 361–367 (1966).

  18. 18

    Batschelet, E. Circular Statistics in Biology (Academic. New York, 1981).

  19. 19

    Wiltschko, W. & Wiltschko, R. J. comp. Physiol. A 109, 91–99 (1976).

  20. 20

    Wiltschko, W. & Wiltschko, R. Zeits. f. Tierpsychol. 37, 337–355 (1975).

  21. 21

    Wiltschko, W. & Wiltschko, R. Zeits. f. Tierpsychol. 39, 265–282 (1975).

  22. 22

    Bingman, V. P. Auk 104, 523–525 (1987).

  23. 23

    Beason, R. C. J. Ornithol. 128, 317–324 (1987).

  24. 24

    Wiltschko, W. & Wiltschko, R. Ethology 91, 70–74 (1992).

  25. 25

    Beason, R. C. Ethology 91, 75–80 (1992).

  26. 26

    Phillips, J. B. & Moore, F. R. Behav. Ecol. Sociobiol. 31, 189–193 (1992).

  27. 27

    Emlen, S. T. in Animal Orientation and Navigation (eds Galler, S. R., Schmidt-Koenig, K., Jacobs, G. J. & Belleville, R. E.) 191–210 (NASA, Washington DC, 1972).

  28. 28

    Cherry, J. D. & Able, K. P. Auk 103, 225–227 (1986).

Download references

Author information

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Able, K., Able, M. Interactions in the flexible orientation system of a migratory bird. Nature 375, 230–232 (1995) doi:10.1038/375230a0

Download citation

Further reading

Comments

By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.