CALIBRATION OF THE SUN COMPASS BY SUNSET POLARIZED-LIGHT PATTERNS IN A MIGRATORY BIRD

JB PHILLIPS
Frank R. Moore, University of Southern Mississippi

Abstract

Migrating birds derive compass information from the sun, stars, geomagnetic field and polarized light, but relatively little is known about how these multiple sources of directional information are integrated into a functional orientation system. We found that migratory warblers exposed to a rotated polarized light pattern at sunset oriented at a constant angle to the axis of polarization. When polarized light cues were eliminated, this shifted orientation was maintained relative to the setting sun. Polarized light patterns, thus, appear to provide a calibration reference for the sun compass in nocturnal migrants, and may also play a role in calibrating other compass systems.