Route recognition in the homing pigeon, Columba livia
Meade J., Biro D., Guilford T.
While homing pigeons are known to use familiar visual landmarks to recognize release sites, it is less clear whether they continue to attend to visual cues along the homeward flight. To address this question, we used precision GPS technology to track pigeons along their homeward route and later released them from sites that they were known to have flown over. The group of birds that were aerially familiar with the chosen sites homed significantly more efficiently than did their yoked (naïve) counterparts. We found no evidence that birds were able to recognize sites that they had previously flown over from the substantially different viewpoint perceived at ground level. The results imply that the birds were able to recognize some aspect of the chosen sites after release and used this information to home more efficiently, although the nature of these cues is not clear. © 2006 The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour.