Washington: A new study has provided a deeper insight how perception of gravity plays a major role for homing pigeons to navigate the way back home.
Hans-Peter Lipp from the University of Zurich, Switzerland, and Kwazulu-Natal University, South Africa said that there is widespread agreement that pigeons are able to determine and maintain flight (compass) directions based on solar and magnetic cues.
However, how the bird determines its position, known as the map sense was still unclear.
Valeryi Kanevskyi from the High-Technologies Institute, Ukraine formulated a simplistic yet astonishing theory, which suggested that the birds could use their memory of the gravity field at their home loft for guidance.
Lipp further mentioned that this solved the map problem by one simple assumption that birds must have a gyroscope in their brain.
The researchers discovered that homing pigeons are affected by disturbances in the gravity field and it suggested that the birds navigate using an internal gyroscope to guide themselves home.
With the help of the study the team suggested that the birds initially set a bearing home by comparing their home gyroscope setting with their local gyroscope reading. However, some birds initially set the wrong bearing, often taking several days to correct the error and return home, suggesting that they rarely use the alternative navigation strategy of regularly checking the difference between their actual and anticipated return routes.
The study is published in the Journal of Experimental Biology.