Journal of Ornithology

, Volume 149, Issue 4, pp 607–614 | Cite as

Contradictory results on the role of polarized light in compass calibration in migratory songbirds

  • Roswitha Wiltschko
  • Ursula Munro
  • Hugh Ford
  • Wolfgang Wiltschko
Original Article

Abstract

Experiments with migrating birds on the interaction between magnetic and celestial cues have produced heterogeneous results. A recent study claimed that the magnetic compass in passerine migrants is calibrated by the pattern of polarized light at sunset and sunrise and that the area just above the horizon is crucial for this calibration. To test the latter hypothesis, we performed a similar experiment with Australian Silvereyes. It produced contrary results, however, the birds, in spite of observing the natural polarization pattern at sunrise and sunset down to the horizon in an altered magnetic field, continued in their normal southerly magnetic direction when subsequently tested in the local geomagnetic field—the conflict between magnetic and polarized light cues had not caused them to recalibrate their magnetic compass. This contradicts the assumption that skylight polarization patterns generally serve as a primary calibration reference for migratory songbirds.

Keywords

Magnetic compass Polarized light Conflicting cues Compass calibration Migratory birds 

Notes

Acknowledgments

Our study was supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft. We sincerely thank S. Debus and G. Lollback for catching the test birds, F. Geiser for logistic support, and L. Warnecke for her help with the experiments. The experiments were performed according to with the rules and regulations of animal welfare and experimentation in Australia.

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Copyright information

© Dt. Ornithologen-Gesellschaft e.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Roswitha Wiltschko
    • 1
  • Ursula Munro
    • 2
  • Hugh Ford
    • 3
  • Wolfgang Wiltschko
    • 1
  1. 1.Fachbereich BiowissenschaftenJ.W.Goethe-Universität FrankfurtFrankfurtGermany
  2. 2.Department of Environmental SciencesUniversity of Technology, SydneyBroadwayAustralia
  3. 3.School of Environmental and Rural SciencesUniversity of New EnglandArmidaleAustralia

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