Magnetic orientation of garden warblers (Sylvia borin) under 1.4 MHz radiofrequency magnetic field

J R Soc Interface. 2014 Aug 6;11(97):20140451. doi: 10.1098/rsif.2014.0451.


We report on the experiments on orientation of a migratory songbird, the garden warbler (Sylvia borin), during the autumn migration period on the Courish Spit, Eastern Baltics. Birds in experimental cages, deprived of visual information, showed the seasonally appropriate direction of intended flight with respect to the magnetic meridian. Weak radiofrequency (RF) magnetic field (190 nT at 1.4 MHz) disrupted this orientation ability. These results may be considered as an independent replication of earlier experiments, performed by the group of R. and W. Wiltschko with European robins (Erithacus rubecula). Confirmed outstanding sensitivity of the birds' magnetic compass to RF fields in the lower megahertz range demands for a revision of one of the mainstream theories of magnetoreception, the radical-pair model of birds' magnetic compass.

Keywords: magnetoreception; orientation; radical-pair model; radiofrequency fields.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animal Migration / physiology*
  • Animal Migration / radiation effects*
  • Animals
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Radiation
  • Magnetic Fields*
  • Orientation / physiology*
  • Orientation / radiation effects*
  • Radiation Dosage
  • Radio Waves
  • Seasons
  • Songbirds / physiology*
  • Space Perception / physiology*
  • Space Perception / radiation effects