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Thread subject: Navigating in the dark
Name Date Message
Tiger 10/23/07 05:04 am We do know that osprey fly in the dark. However I have never (up until now) thought to ask as to how they navigate?

Any thoughts?
Celeste 10/23/07 06:25 am I did some searches regarding night migration. Most of the sites said that mostly songbirds will migrate at night. They like to use the day to search for food, and the stillness of the night to migrate. Hawks on the other hand are inclined to use the day so that they may catch thermals, however, in searching it was mentioned that occasionally osprey will fly in the dark. One site mentioned it felt that those hawks know where they are going. Magnetic compass was also mentioned. Interestingly, I discovered that birdwatchers congregate on the 86th floor of the Empire State Building to watch night migration and arrangements have been made to turn off some of the lights very late at night to aid the migrating birds from flying into the building. One birdwatcher mentioned that they witnessed a peregrine falcon take advantage of the situation by waiting on the ledge. Anyways, in 2005, two osprey were seen flying at night over the skyscraper. Anything I read however, generally were theories, magnetic compass, repeat migrators, less predators, weather conditions. Nothing definite. I'm inclined to lean towards the magnetic compass, instinct and a plain old miraculous journey. One site said that if migratory birds were human, they would be tested for steroids!
Pamela 10/23/07 09:02 am Both of your posts are interesting.
We know that migratory birds employ orientation and navigation systems. A resource I have found describes orientation as the internal compass to align itself in the right direction if it finds itself in an unfamiliar location utilizing three guidance mechanisms: the sun, stars, and more importantly, the magnetic compass.
My source is still unsure of the navigation system with the exception of recognizing navigational landmarks, buildings, mountains, rivers, etc., but wonders whether the birds actually remember landmarks. It seems the avian ability to navigate seems to remain a mystery.
Isn't it great we don't know everything? And don't you really enjoy the fact that the osprey is a bird unto himself sometimes defying all other raptor behavior.
Matt 10/23/07 05:10 pm Yes Pamela, especially when one such as Felix decides to avoid land altogether on his first migration. I'm surprised he didn't tire out and fall into the ocean.
Anne UK1 10/23/07 05:17 pm When you think about it, do birds need to see where they're going apart from making sure they're not about to fly into a solid object. Do we know they recognise landmarks or is that just an assumption?
Certainly for solitary travellers such as osprey, the first ever migration can only be on instinct (or some other ability which we humans don't possess). The magnetic compass theory seems quite a strong possibility to me.
Tiger 10/23/07 06:59 pm There was a fascinating bird tracked in 2002. It found itself well off course yet remarkably found safety.

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Last modified: Sat Feb 17, 2007