Migratory birds 'have magnetic beaks that help them navigate'
Migratory birds have fascinated humans for many years because of their uncanny ability to find their way home from thousands of miles away.world Updated: May 05, 2010 12:13 IST
Migratory birds have fascinated humans for many years because of their uncanny ability to find their way home from thousands of miles away.
Now, a new study has found a scientific reason behind it -- birds have magnetic beaks which help them navigate.
Researchers at Max Planck Institute in Germany have carried out the study and claimed that the beaks of the avians contain magnetic particles which act as a kind of compass that aid in their navigation.
For their study, the researchers re-magnetised iron minerals in the beak of a number of robins and reed warblers, and made them take off in different directions to normal.
The findings revealed that the beaks do act as a kind of navigational device wired to the nervous system and atleast partly help the birds decide in which direction to travel, The Daily Telegraph reported.
According to the researchers, the re-magnetisation works much like when one rubs a piece of meal with a magnet in turn making it magnetised. And, one can change the polarity by rubbing it in a different direction.
"This research indicates that bird migration in the wild requires a sensory system that uses iron mineral particles to detect the Earths magnetic field," Dr Richard Holland, who led the study, was quoted as saying.
The findings have been published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface.