Orientation cues used by migratory birds: A review of cue-conflict experiments

Trends Ecol Evol. 1993 Oct;8(10):367-71. doi: 10.1016/0169-5347(93)90221-A.


During the late 1960s and early 1970s the accumulating evidence of magnetic orientation forced the conclusion that the orientation of migratory birds and homing pigeons is based upon multiple stimuli. 'Cue-conflict experiments' have provided a powerful means of asking how these directional cues relate one to another. The weight of evidence suggests that in short-term orientation decision making, magnetic cues take precedence over stars, and visual information at sunset overrides both these stimuli. Recent experiments point to polarized skylight patterns as the relevant cue in dusk orientation. Although cue-conflict experiments have now been performed on a diversity of species, generalizations are weakened because of differences in experimental design, in the cues examined and in our ability to manipulate those cues. There remains a need for carefully designed comparative studies.