A GPS logger and software for analysis of homing in pigeons and small mammals

Physiol Behav. 2000 Dec;71(5):589-96. doi: 10.1016/s0031-9384(00)00409-1.


A detailed analysis of homing in pigeons and small mammals has remained difficult because the paths of the animals could not be reconstructed precisely. Here, we describe a lightweight global position system (GPS) data logger (35 g including battery and casing; 40 x 68 x 18 mm) that records the flight of pigeons and the path of dogs with an accuracy of +/-12 m. With one battery, the logger runs in continuous mode (1 fix/s) for 3.5 h and in power-saving mode (1 fix/5 s) for about 16 h, and stores a maximum of 100,000 data points that are downloaded to a PC. A module of our public domain software WINTRACK permits a detailed numerical and graphical analysis of path geometry, phases of resting and moving, and path similarity. The device can be adapted to different species provided that satellite signals can be received reliably and that the loggers can be recovered. We expect it to be useful for testing hypotheses about pigeon homing, assessing natural spatial behavior and orientation of many species, and anticipate further miniaturization.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects*
  • Columbidae / physiology*
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Dogs
  • Homing Behavior*
  • Psychology, Experimental / instrumentation*
  • Software*
  • Telemetry / instrumentation*