Route navigation in homing pigeons (Columba livia): the use of visual cues over a familiar area.

Electronic versions


  • Sarah Stachowski

    Research areas

  • Master of Science by Research (MScRes), Animal Navigation, Homing pigeon, Avian Navigation, Columba livia, Map and compass hypothesis, pilotage, familiar area, homing, mosaic map, landmarks, navigational cues, magnetoreception, olfactory navigation, celestial navigation, Animal behaviour, clock shift, bird navigation, visual navigational cues


The use of landmarks as navigational cues used by Homing pigeons (Columba livia) over a familiar area remains an unresolved area of study. With evidence supporting both a visual landscape cue-only method of navigation, known as pilotage and compass-based methods using bearings to navigate from one landmark to the next known as the mosaic map, conclusions are hard to draw. Much of the evidence in support of pilotage has been seen in Oxford, with displaced birds showing a high attraction back to their established routes and idiosyncrasy, which is in favour of this hypothesis. To investigate further the use of landmarks in pigeon navigation, two sites were used in North Wales, one of which has already been used in similar homing experiments. Training releases with young pigeons were completed followed by displacement releases over an area familiar to the birds. With a lack of idiosyncrasy found in these experiments and a rather chaotic off-route release, the results presented here are not in support of pilotage. However, this does not mean that the pigeons will not develop the piloting method for navigation. Combining evidence presented here with previous work could indicate that the methods used for navigation are age-dependent and the cognitive processes may change with age.


Original languageEnglish
Award date30 Aug 2022