Naturwissenschaften

, Volume 94, Issue 10, pp 813–819

Homing pigeons (Columba livia f. domestica) can use magnetic cues for locating food

  • Peter Thalau
  • Elke Holtkamp-Rötzler
  • Gerta Fleissner
  • Wolfgang Wiltschko
Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s00114-007-0259-6

Cite this article as:
Thalau, P., Holtkamp-Rötzler, E., Fleissner, G. et al. Naturwissenschaften (2007) 94: 813. doi:10.1007/s00114-007-0259-6

Abstract

An experimental group of homing pigeons (Columba livia f. domestica) learned to associate food with a magnetic anomaly produced by bar magnets that were fixed to the bowl in which they received their daily food ration in their home loft; the control group lacked this experience. Both groups were trained to search for two hidden food depots in a rectangular sand-filled arena without obvious visual cues; for the experimental birds, these depots were also marked with three 1.15 × 106 μT bar magnets. During the tests, there were two food depots, one marked with the magnets, the other unmarked; their position within the arena was changed from test to test. The experimental birds searched within 10 cm of the magnetically marked depot in 49% of the test sessions, whereas the control birds searched there in only 11% of the sessions. Both groups searched near the control depot in 11 and 13% of the sessions, respectively. The significant preference of the magnetically marked food depot by the experimental birds shows that homing pigeons cannot only detect a magnetic anomaly but can also use it as a cue for locating hidden food in an open arena.

Keywords

PigeonMagnetic fieldConditioning

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter Thalau
    • 1
  • Elke Holtkamp-Rötzler
    • 1
  • Gerta Fleissner
    • 1
  • Wolfgang Wiltschko
    • 1
  1. 1.Fachbereich BiowissenschaftenJ.W.Goethe-Universität FrankfurtFrankfurt am MainGermany