Seasonal Changes in Atmospheric Noise Levels and the Annual Variation in Pigeon Homing Performance

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Avian navigation, Infrasound, Microbaroms, Tornadoes, Hurricanes

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College of Natual Science and Mathematics, Biological Sciences


Repeated releases of experienced homing pigeons from single sites were conducted between 1972 and 1974 near Cornell University in upstate New York and between 1982 and 1983 near the University of Pittsburgh in western Pennsylvania, USA. No annual variation in homing performance was observed at these sites in eastern North America, in contrast to results from a number of similar experiments in Europe. Assuming pigeons home using low-frequency infrasonic signals (~0.1–0.3 Hz), as has been previously proposed, the annual and geographic variability in homing performance within the northern hemisphere might be explained, to a first order, by seasonal changes in low-frequency atmospheric background noise levels related to storm activity in the North Atlantic Ocean, and by acoustic waveguides formed between the surface and seasonally reversing stratospheric winds. In addition, increased dispersion among departure bearings of test birds on some North American release days was possibly caused by infrasonic noise from severe weather events during tornado and Atlantic hurricane seasons.

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