The study presented here was conducted in order to analyze the role of the direction of celestial rotation in the development of stellar orientation in young migratory birds. The test birds were garden warblers, Sylvla borin, which leave their breeding ground on a southwesterly compass course. The birds were hand-raised and, during the premigratory period, exposed to an artificial 'sky' in the local geomagnetic field. For the control group C, the star pattern was rotating in the natural direction, with the centre of rotation and magnetic North coinciding. For the three experimental groups, the star pattern was rotating in the opposite direction; for group E1, the centre of rotation coincided with magnetic North, for group E2 the centre of rotation was at magnetic West and for group E3 it was at magnetic East. During autumn migration, the birds were tested without magnetic information under the same, now stationary, sky. All four groups were able to use stellar information for orientation, but only the control group preferred the normal southwesterly course. The three experimental groups, in contrast, all oriented towards a significantly different direction, preferring due south. The results for group E1 showed less scatter than those for the other two experimental groups. These results indicate that the direction of celestial rotation is crucial for the development of the normal migratory course with respect to the stars in young garden warblers. Establishing the species-specific southwesterly migratory course requires an interaction between celestial rotation and magnetic cues; this interaction appears to depend on the natural direction of celestial rotation. Rotation in the reverse direction allowed the birds to respond only in a manner that oriented them away from the centre of rotation.
The direction of celestial rotation influences the development of stellar orientation in young garden warblers (Sylvia borin)
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P Weindler, M Baumetz, W Wiltschko; The direction of celestial rotation influences the development of stellar orientation in young garden warblers (Sylvia borin). J Exp Biol 1 January 1997; 200 (15): 2107–2113. doi: https://doi.org/10.1242/jeb.200.15.2107
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