A reinterpretation of “Homing pigeons’ flight over and under low stratus” based on atmospheric propagation modeling of infrasonic navigational cues

Journal of Comparative Physiology A
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Abstract

Pigeons flying above temperature inversion and related low-stratus layers appear to lack important navigational cues, and a reinterpretation of Wagner’s 1978 study suggests that these cues are low-frequency acoustic signals (infrasound). Wagner released homing pigeons above opaque stratus over the Swiss Plateau to determine whether they could locate their loft beneath it. Birds above the clouds appeared lost, while those that descended beneath them returned home directly. Atmospheric propagation modeling of infrasonic waves virtually transmitted from the loft area shows that these signals would have been ducted beneath the inversion layer, and would not have reached the release sites above it. The absence of homeward infrasonic cues above temperature inversions could explain the disorientation of Wagner’s birds, especially if such signals are the predominant cues used by pigeons to home. The possible generation of infrasonic navigational signals in the loft area and recent queries concerning the infrasound navigational “map” hypothesis are also discussed.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title A reinterpretation of “Homing pigeons’ flight over and under low stratus” based on atmospheric propagation modeling of infrasonic navigational cues
Series title Journal of Comparative Physiology A
DOI 10.1007/s00359-018-1304-y
Volume 205
Year Published 2019
Language English
Publisher Springer
Contributing office(s) Geology, Minerals, Energy, and Geophysics Science Center
Description 12 p.
First page 67
Last page 78
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