Conceptual approaches to avian navigation systems


The general basis of migratory orientation in birds is most probably an endogenous time-and-direction program. Directions are selected with respect to celestial and geomagnetic clues. Using these clues, a bird may reach a large population-specific area; however, it will hardly be able to find a particular location, for instance its previous breeding site. Homing to a familiar site over several hundred kilometres of unfamiliar terrain appears to be based on the smelling of atmospheric trace compounds. Conceptual approaches to the mechanism of olfactory navigation have as yet only reached an early state of speculation.


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