Magnetic Orientation in the Savannah Sparrow

Authors

  • Kenneth P. Able,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Biology, State University of New York, Albany
      Department of Biology, State University of New York, Albany, New York 12222, USA.
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    • 3

      Able, K. P. & Able, M. A. 1993: Magnetic orientation in the Savannah sparrow. Ethology 93, 337–343.

  • Mary A. Able

    1. Department of Biology, State University of New York, Albany
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    • 3

      Able, K. P. & Able, M. A. 1993: Magnetic orientation in the Savannah sparrow. Ethology 93, 337–343.


Department of Biology, State University of New York, Albany, New York 12222, USA.

Abstract

Although magnetic compass orientation has been reported in a number of invertebrate and vertebrate taxa, including about a dozen migratory bird species, magnetic orientation capabilities in animals remain somewhat controversial. We have hand-raised a large number of Savannah sparrows (Passerculus sandwichensis) to study the ontogeny of orientation behavior. Young birds with a variety of early experience with visual and magnetic orientation cues have been tested for magnetic orientation during their first autumn migration. Here we present data from 80 hand-raised sparrows, each tested several times in both normal and shifted magnetic fields. Birds reared indoors with no experience with visual orientation cues showed axial north-south orientation that shifted by almost exactly the magnitude of 90° clockwise and counterclockwise shifts in the direction of magnetic north. Other groups of birds with varying early experience with visual orientation cues showed different preferred orientation directions, but all groups shifted orientation direction in response to shifts in the magnetic field. The data thus demonstrate a robust magnetic orientation ability in this species.

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