The orientational consequences of flocking behaviour in homing pigeons, Columba livia
De Perera TB., Guilford T.
Two experiments are described which investigate the orientational consequences of flocking in homing pigeons Columba livia. Previous experiments have shown that homing pigeons placed inside a clear-sided release box for 5 min before release from a familiar site have enhanced ground homing speed compared with those placed in an opaque-sided box. It is assumed that previewing the surrounding landscape allows for faster homing since a bird denied this information must accumulate the knowledge on release. In experiment 1, using the same technique developed in these experiments but releasing the birds in pairs we showed that within familiar areas, homing pigeons can exploit a partner that has acquired more information, allowing them to home more quickly. In experiment 2 we attempted to test three potential strategies which may occur during homing flights. The results do not conclusively distinguish between these three mechanisms but suggest that orientation of the pairs of birds is most likely to have resulted from a compromise of individual tendencies, or from following the best homer, but not from following a 'governing leader'. The consequence of these mechanisms is discussed.