It is now well established that homing pigeons (Columba livia) use a variety of mechanisms and cues to help them find their way home. It is far more difficult to determine the relative importance attached to such mechanisms and cues by pigeons during homing. As a step towards this quantitative stage in our understanding of homing behaviour we consider if cues contribute significantly to homing speed. In particular we attempt to assess the role of visual landmarks. Using pigeons released from familiar release sites, we demonstrate that birds home faster if they can view their surroundings from inside a Perspex box for 5minutes prior to being released, compared to birds denied this view. Pigeons released from unfamiliar sites, however, do not show a similar improvement. We suggest that seeing familiar visual landmarks before release allows pigeons to become more certain of their current location with respect to home. Simply viewing the release site is not sufficient to produce a faster homing speed; the pigeons must be able to recognize that the release site is familiar.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ocean Engineering