Homing Instinct in Birds – How do they do it?

National Geographic looks at the strange case of the homing pigeon that went missing for 5 years!


Getty Images: form Nat Geo article

It was released in Nantes and along with a large number of other homers it simply disappeared. This interesting article gives a probable explanation


Tom Roden’s Homing Pigeon “Champion Whitetail” who found his way home after 5 lost years

This article also  mentions the phenomenon of golden-winged warblers in Tennessee, who seemingly detected impending climatic disaster:

“Jennifer Ackerman, in her new book The Genius of Birds, describes another bird mystery. This one took place in eastern Tennessee.

It was April 2014, and researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, were testing whether a population of tiny golden-winged warblers … could carry geolocators on their backs. The birds had arrived only in the past day or two after a 3,000-mile journey north from their wintering grounds in Columbia. The team had just attached the gizmos to the tiny warblers when all the birds suddenly flew the coop, spontaneously evacuating their nesting grounds.

Where’d they go? Why would so many birds all scatter at the same time? Ackerman says that later scientists learned [H.M. Streby et al, “Tornadic storm avoidance behavior in breeding songbirds,” Curr Biol (2014) doi:10.1016/j.cub.2014.10.079.] that a gigantic spring storm, a supercell, was heading toward Tennessee at that very moment—one that “would spawn eighty-four tornadoes and kill thirty-five people.” When it was still 250 to 500 miles away, the warblers seemed to hear it coming—the deep rumble of storm reached them, and so the birds scattered, flying every which way, even as far as Cuba. When the storm passed, they all returned and began to breed.”

How birds navigate, sense and astonish us is year by year slowly being revealed. I’m now finishing a wonderful book “Bird Sense – What It’s Like to Be a Bird” by Tim Birkhead. It reveals astonishing findings, educational on every page, and I’ll treasure it. It covers in great, very-readable, entertaining depth all of bird senses: seeing, hearing, touch, taste, smell, magnetic sense and emotions. I’m just about to start the chapter on emotions. For me it’s a book I can’t put down. Don’t take my word for it; read a review here.

Bird Sense

Another stunning book, no less impressive but not quite so friendly a read is “Bird Migration” by Ian Newton, available from amazon, which also covers many of the senses and instincts of birds.

Bird Migration


About starrywazzoh

I'm a birder in Western Europe (UK, France & Spain) and Central Asia, with occasional visits elsewhere. Birding is my principal hobby and I dedicate as much time around work and other commitments.
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3 Responses to Homing Instinct in Birds – How do they do it?

  1. Excellent post, interesting reading!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Dubai World Record Eagle Flight | Starry Wazzoh's Blog

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