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Experientia

, Volume 46, Issue 4, pp 336–342 | Cite as

The sun compass

  • K. Schmidt-Koenig
Multi-Author Review

Summary

The sun compass was discovered by G. Kramer in caged birds showing migratory restlessness. Subsequent experiments with caged brids employing directional training and clock shifts, carried out by Hoffmann and by Schmidt-Koenig, showed that sun azimuth is used and sun altitude ignored. McDonald found the accuracy to be ±3o–±5o. According to Hoffmann and to Schmidt-Koenig, caged birds trained at medium northern latitudes were able to allow for the sun's apparent movement north of the arctic circle but not in equatorial and trans-equatorial latitudes.

In homing experiments, and employing clock shifts, Schmidt-Koenig demonstrated that the sun compass is used by homing pigeons during initial orientation. This finding supports the existence of a map and compass navigational system. Pigeons living in equatorial latitudes utilize the sun compass even under the extreme solar conditions of equinox (Ranvaud, Schmidt-Koenig, Ganzhorn et al.). The use of the sun compass during zenith passage of the sun is being investigated.

Key words

Sun azimuth compass clock shift initial orientation directional training homing pigeon 

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Copyright information

© Birkhäuser Verlag 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • K. Schmidt-Koenig
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of ZoologyDuke UniversityDurhamUSA
  2. 2.VerhaltensphysiologieUniversität TübingenTübingenFederal Republic of Germany

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