Homing birds are just streetwise

[Published on 06 February, 2004]

The secret of carrier pigeons' uncanny ability to find their way home
has been discovered by British scientists: They follow the roads
just as people do.

Oxford University researchers spent 10 years studying homing pigeons
using global positioning satellite and were stunned to find the birds
do not often navigate using the sun.

Instead, they fly along motorways, turn at junctions and even go
around roundabouts, adding kilometres to their journeys.

One professor said pigeons use their own navigational system when
doing long-distance trips or when doing a journey for the first time.

But when they have flown a journey more than once, they home in on
a habitual route home. "It looks like it is mentally easier for
a bird to fly down a road... they are just making their journey
as simple as possible."