The Development of the Navigational System in Young Homing Pigeons

  • R. Wiltschko
  • W. Wiltschko
Part of the Proceedings in Life Sciences book series (LIFE SCIENCES)


Bird navigation is generally looked upon as a two-step process described by Kramer’s map and compass model (1953). In step 1, the bird determines its home direction as a compass direction; in step 2, it uses a compass to localize this direction in space (cf. Wallraff 1974, Wiltschko W. and Wiltschko R. 1982). For both these steps, alternative mechanisms are available to the birds so that they can determine their home direction (1) by information obtained en route during the outward journey; or (2) by local information collected at the starting point of the return flight (in experiments: at the release site). In the first case, a simple strategy called route reversal is applied: the bird records the compass direction of the outward journey, integrating detours if necessary, and reverses this direction to obtain the homeward course (cf. Wiltschko et al. 1978). When using local information, we must assume that the birds make use of some kind of environmental gradients which form the grid of a “map”. Knowing the directions in which these gradients increase, a bird can extrapolate their values at unfamiliar locations, and so obtain its home direction by comparing the data of a given site with those of home (for details, see Wallraff 1974, Wiltschko W and Wiltschko R. 1982).


Internal Clock Magnetic Compass Homing Pigeon Compass Direction Navigational System 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Grüter M, Wiltschko R, Wiltschko W (1982) Distribution of release-site biases around Frankfurt a.M. In: Avian navigation. Springer, Berlin Heidelberg New York, p 222.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Keeton WT (1972) Effects of magnets on pigeon homing. In: Animal orientation and navigation, NASA SP-262. U.S. Gov. Print. Off., Washington D.C., p 579.Google Scholar
  3. Papi F (1976) The olfactory navigation system of the homing pigeon. Verh Deutsch Zool Ges Hamburg, p 184.Google Scholar
  4. Schmidt-Koenig K (1961) Die Sonne als Kompaß im Heim-Orientierungssystem der Brieftauben. ZTierpsychol 18:221–244.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Walcott C (1980) Magnetic orientation in homing pigeons. IEEE Trans on Magnetics, Mag-16: 1008-1013.Google Scholar
  6. Wallraff HG (1974) Das Navigationssystem der Vögel. Schriftenreihe „Kybernetik“. R Oldenbourg Verlag, München Wien, p 136.Google Scholar
  7. Wallraff HG (1980) Olfaction and homing in pigeons: nerve-section experiments, critique, hypotheses. J Comp Physiol Psychol 139:209–224.Google Scholar
  8. Wiltschko R (1980) Die Sonnenorientierung der Vögel. I. Die Rolle der Sonne im Orientierungssystem und die Funktionsweise des Sonnenkompaß. J Ornithol 121:121–143.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Wiltschko R (to be published) The ontogeny of orientation in young pigeons. Comp Biochem Physiol A.Google Scholar
  10. Wiltschko R, Nohr D, Wiltschko W (1981) Pigeons with a deficient sun compass use the magnetic compass. Science 214:343–345.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Wiltschko R, Wiltschko W (1981) The development of sun compass orientation in young homing pigeons. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 9:135–141.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Wiltschko R, Wiltschko W, Keeton WT (1978) Effect of outward journey in an altered magnetic field on the orientation of young homing pigeons. In: Animal migration, navigation, and homing. Springer, Berlin Heidelberg New York, p 152.Google Scholar
  13. Wiltschko W, Wiltschko R (1972) Magnetic compass of European robins. Science 176:62–64.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Wiltschko W, Wiltschko R (1981) Disorientation of inexperienced young pigeons after transportation in total darkness. Nature 291:433–434.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Wiltschko W, Wiltschko R (1982) The role of outward journey information in the orientation of homing pigeons. In: Avian navigation. Springer, Berlin Heidelberg New York, p 239.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Wiltschko W, Wiltschko R, Keeton WT (1976) Effects of a “permanent” clock shift on the orientation of young homing pigeons. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 1:229–243.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Wiltschko W, Wiltschko R, Keeton WT, Madden R (1983) Growing up in an altered magnetic field affects the initial orientation of young homing pigeons. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 12:135–142.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. Wiltschko
    • 1
  • W. Wiltschko
    • 1
  1. 1.Fachbereich BiologieUniversität ZoologieFrankfurt a.MGermany

Personalised recommendations