How do young night migrating passerines use their compasses for orientation during migration?

  • Mouritsen H
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Abstract

Are night migrating passerines during their first migration simple clock-and-compass machines just flying in a set species-specific compass direction, or are they actively navigating? Recently, I developed a mathematical model, which showed that the directional distributions as a function of distance found in ringing recoveries of Scandinavian Pied Flycatchers, Ficedula hypoleuca, correlated strongly with those predicted from the model of the simple clock-and-compass strategy. As an empirical test, a displacement experiment was performed. Pied Flycatchers caught in Scandinavia during their first autumn migration were tested before and after being displaced about the maximal biologically realistic distance due south and due west. The birds showed no signs of compensatory orientation. Also, I recently reviewed the displacement literature and found that the evidence supporting the clock-and-compass hypothesis strongly outweighed the evidence against it. All this evidence suggests that young night migrating passerines are equipped with compasses only, but no map.

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Authors

  • Henrik Mouritsen

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