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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Pigeons are road users too

This has no connection with legalising drugs, abolishing income tax (see posting below) or the Samizdata.net metacontext, or no connection that I can now think of. But even so, I like it a lot:

Researchers have cracked the puzzle of how pigeons find their way home: they just follow the main roads.

Some pigeons stick so rigidly to the roads that they even fly round roundabouts before choosing the exit to lead them back to their lofts.

Animal behaviouralists at Oxford University are stunned by their findings, which follow 10 years of research into homing pigeons. For the last 18 months they have used the latest global-positioning technology, allowing them to track the ground the birds covered to within one to four metres.

I too am stunned, even though I am not an “animal behaviouralist”. Apparently pigeons do have an innate navigation system, but as soon as they identify a road-based route, they use that instead.

“Up until now, we have always thought about the way that birds go in terms of the energetics of the flight efficiency, which is the most direct route home … as in the phrase ‘as the crow flies’.

“But the answer is, they don’t go as the crow flies, and neither, it is my hunch, do crows. …”

No mate. Crows use the latest global-positioning technology.

3 comments to Pigeons are road users too

  • I have frequent opportunities to watch ravens flying (Mojave songbirds, I call ’em) , and they typically don’t follow roads- but they do follow rooflines. You have to understand, ravens are fundamentally lazy, bored birds who don’t have to work hard for a living, so whenever they can, they use any lift available- in in Mojave that often means ridge lift. With the steady winds they simply soar a few feet from the windward edge of a flat-roofed building, surfing the wind as it rises over the obstruction.

    When they really have to go someplace, though, ravens fly direct. Pigeons are stupid.

  • Ted Schuerzinger

    I think it does have something to do with the Samizdata meta-context: I’d be willing to bet that study was tax-funded.

    As for other interesting studies, those who can read Russian might want to read

    This story about the best stones for skipping stones


    This story unlocking the secret of champagne bubbles.

    You can’t make this stuff up and have it be funnier than the real thing. 🙂

  • Guy Herbert

    An alternative suggestion why it is relevant:

    Pigeons, like people, would rather follow an arbitrary model of the world set up by someone else than make the small effort needed to govern their own lives.

    The roundabout bit suggests it’s a hoax though 🙁