May 5, 2013

Birds and their Fascinating Global Positioning Systems

You must have observed countless number of birds coming home for the summer. It is such a fascinating sight to see these creatures flying thousands of miles, and returning to the exact spot they had been some months ago – as though using some scientific GPS systems. It is inspiring how they are able to locate positions on the earth.

When birds fly in the atmosphere, there are no hindrances to their flight and the thin air minimizes the energy they use up. They also minimize spent energy by flying in ‘V’ formations, where the lead bird does the main work while others follow behind. Soon, this bird gets tired and another bird takes over from it. By working together, they are propelled faster and their energy is conserved.

With no maps, charts or navigation systems, birds probably use their senses as well as sounds or smell associated with the route. Younger birds will also rely on adult birds for direction, using their keen memory as aid.


Findings have figured out that birds use the sun, stars and the moon as navigational aids – just as ancient sailors used. It is also possible they have other internal mechanisms of navigation that help them precisely during their trans-continental flights.

It’s really stunning to see birds find their way back home, even when taken to places they have not been before; this is particularly interesting in the Homing pigeons.

Birds are truly amazing in their behavior and scientists are doing all they can to discover exactly on they achieve some of their navigational feats. Maybe then we can seek ways of applying what we learn from them in our scientific endeavor

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