Date:October 5, 2015
When researchers captured Eurasian reed warblers along the Russian coast during their spring migrations and flew them 1,000 kilometers east to Zvenigorod, the birds weren't fazed; they simply re-oriented themselves toward their original destination. Now, the researchers who first demonstrated the birds' navigational skill in the Cell Press journal Current Biology several years ago are back with new evidence that reed warblers rely on a geomagnetic map to point them in the right direction.
In fact, the researchers show in Current Biology on October 5 that the birds will respond as though they've been sent to Zvenigorod when they are captured and exposed to a geomagnetic field that matches that location.
"The most amazing part of our finding is that the same birds sitting on the same dune of Courish Spit on the Baltic coast shifted their orientation from their normal migratory direction--northeast--to the northwest after we slightly turned current control knobs on our power supplies," says Dmitry Kishkinev of Queen's University Belfast. "All the other sensory cues remained the same for the birds."