Journal of Comparative Physiology A

, Volume 177, Issue 3, pp 357–362 | Cite as

The role of skylight polarization in the orientation of a day-migrating bird species

  • U. Munro
  • R. Wiltschko
Original Paper


To assess the role of skylight polarization in the orientation system of a day-migrating bird, Yellow-faced Honeyeaters (Lichenostomus chrysops, Meliphagidae) were tested in funnel cages for their directional preferences. In control tests in the natural local geomagnetic field under the clear natural sky, they preferred their normal migratory course. Manipulations of the e-vector by depolarizing the skylight or rotating the axis of polarization failed to affect the orientation as long as the natural geomagnetic field was present. When deprived of magnetic information, the birds continued in their normal migratory direction as long as they had access to information from the natural sky, or when either the sun or polarized light was available. However, when sun was hidden by clouds, depolarizers caused disorientation. — These findings indicate that polarized skylight can be used for orientation when no other known cues are available. However in the hierarchy of cues of this species, the polarization pattern clearly ranks lower than information from the geomagnetic field.

Key words

Bird migration Orientation Polarized light Magnetic field Yellow-faced honeyeater 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • U. Munro
    • 1
  • R. Wiltschko
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of ZoologyThe University of New EnglandArmidaleAustralia
  2. 2.FB Biologie der Universität, ZoologieFrankfurt a.M.Germany

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