Pigeons are amazing. We still do not know how they manage to navigate home. Sight? Smells? Magnetic fields? All of the above?
This Radiolab podcast: Bird’s-Eye View, includes the story of a pigeon war hero who saved a town and it also explores the variety of experiments scientists have conducted to try to decode this navigational mystery – including putting blinding contact lenses in their eyes, strapping magnetic coils to their heads and transporting them inside smell-controlled boxes.
I wondered what the current state of research is on pigeon navigation and I found a report in the New Scientist about embedding devices in the brain of a pigeon that can record the electrical impulses in the pigeon’s brain at the same time as it records the GPS location. What the researches found is that the pigeon’s brain activity spiked up when they passed over landmarks like highways and coastlines.