And sci­en­tists are

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE -

only get­ting a peek

in the di­rec­tion that in prin­ci­ple should see them ar­rive in a place where they can sur­vive the win­ter.

“Then based on that first year, they then seem to re­turn to known lo­ca­tions.”

The re­searchers be­lieve the other mi­gra­tory birds could also be us­ing sim­i­lar nav­i­ga­tional aids dur­ing their jour­neys.

Through un­der­stand­ing avian nav­i­ga­tion, sci­en­tists be­lieve there could be pos­i­tive spin-offs, not only for the birds but also for hu­mans.

“This will be­come help­ful as we be­come more and more in­ter­ested in au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles,” says Hol­land.

“We have GPS which is in­cred­i­bly ac­cu­rate, but what hap­pens if sud­denly World War III starts and they turn off the GPSes? So hav­ing back up sys­tems that rely on other cues might be a valu­able thing to have.”

Dr Han­neline Smit-Robin­son, of Birdlife South Africa, added that know­ing how birds nav­i­gate could help in their con­ser­va­tion.

“With the ad­vent of cli­mate change, we would be able to pre­dict the im­pact it will have on mi­gra­tion.”

But there is still a lot to learn and sci­en­tists are only now get­ting a peek.

“Do you know that re­cent stud­ies have shown that pairs of wood­land king­fish­ers split up when they mi­grate to Cen­tral Africa? They only see each other again at the same nest­ing site when they re­turn. That is just in­cred­i­ble,” says Smit-Robin­son.

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