Physiology

It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's Trouble

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Science  31 Mar 2000:
Vol. 287, Issue 5462, pp. 2377
DOI: 10.1126/science.287.5462.2377d

The remarkable ability of birds to navigate accurately over thousands of kilometers demands both a sense of location (map sense) and of direction (compass sense). The primary contributors to directional flight are sun and magnetic compasses. From an analysis of four homing pigeon races in the eastern United States and western Europe, Hagstrum resurrects an earlier proposal that atmospheric infrasound (low-frequency sound waves) may provide map cues. In all four cases, an unfortunate juxtaposition of the Concorde's shock wave and the racecourses appears to have led to catastrophic losses of birds. He suggests that these shock waves obliterated the infrasonic cues supplied by the microseisms that are produced continuously by oceanic waves.—GJC

J. Exp. Biol.203, 1103 (2000).

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