In previous experiments suggesting that previewing visual landscapes speeds homing from familiar release sites, restricted access to olfactory cues may have artefactually encouraged homing pigeons, Calumba livia, to resort to visual landmark orientation. Since evidence for the role of visual landmarks in wide-ranging avian orientation is still equivocal, Braithwaite & Guilford's (1991, Proc. R. Sec. Lond. Ser. B, 245, 183-186) 'previewing' experiments were replicated: birds were allowed or denied visual access to a familiar site prior to release, but allowed ample access to olfactory cues. In experiment 1, allowing birds to preview familiar sites for 5 min prior to release enhanced homing speeds by about 12%. In experiment 2, modified to reduce between-day effects on variation, previewing enhanced homing speeds by about 16%. These experiments support the conclusion that visual landmarks remote from sight of the loft are an important component of the familiar area map, although the nature of the landmarks and how they are encoded remain to be determined. (C) 1997 The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour.