Science Pigeon Built-In GPS

Published on April 26th, 2012 | by James Johnson


Pigeons Have Built-In Biological GPS Systems

Pigeon Built-In GPS

Have you ever wondered how carrier pigeons are able to so easily find their way to and from locations without a Google Maps program attached to their little bodies? Two researchers were trying to figure that out and recently published a study in Nature which basically explains that the pigeons use the Earth’s magnetic field to find their way around (an already known theory), then memorize different magnetic points and basically use Earth as a giant built-in GPS system.

The study is the first to posit that a pigeons brain processes the information it receives as brain signals come from the inner year with receptors in their beaks and eyes also passing along information.

One of the study’s co-authors at Baylor College of Medicine tells Discovery News:

“We have found cells in the (pigeon) brain that signal the direction, intensity and polarity of an applied magnetic field.”

The researcher also notes:

“These three qualities can be used by the brain to compute heading information, like a compass, and latitude on the Earth surface.”

While far from a complete analysis of a pigeons GPS capabilities a researcher not involved in the project says it is “the most thorough investigation of the magnetic sense so far.”

Would you like to have a built-in GPS or like me do you get lost in the ghetto every single time you head to a new city?



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About the Author

James is a new media professional with more than half a decade worth of experience in the online writing space. He currently serves as the Associate Editor of and the Editor-in-Chief of He also serves as a resident writer for Splash Press Media. In his spare time James consults businesses regarding SEO and Content Development.

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