Novel insights into the map stage of true navigation in nonmigratory wild birds (Stone curlews, Burhinus oedicnemus)

Yotam Orchan, Otso Ovaskainen, Willem Bouten, Ran Nathan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


In the map-and-compass model of true navigation, animals at unfamiliar sites determine their position relative to a destination site (the map stage) before progressing toward it (the compass stage). A major challenge in animal navigation research is to understand the still cryptic map stage in general and the map stage for free-ranging wild animals in particular. To address this challenge, we experimentally translocated wild, nonmigratory birds (stone curlews [Burhinus oedicnemus]) far from their nests and GPS-tracked their subsequent movements at high resolution and for long durations. Homing success was high and cannot be explained by random chance or landmark navigation, implying true navigation. Although highly motivated to return home, the homing trajectories of translocated birds exhibited a distinct, two-phase pattern resembling the map and compass stages: a long, tortuous wandering phase without consistent approach home, followed by a short and direct return phase. Birds retranslocated to the same site initially repeated the original wandering path but switched to the return phase earlier and after covering a smaller area; they returned home via a different path but with similar movement properties. We thus propose the map learning hypothesis, asserting that birds resolve the map by acquiring, potentially through learning, the relevant navigation cues during the wandering phase.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E152-E165
JournalAmerican Naturalist
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Cue acquisition stage
  • Resident bird
  • Retranslocation
  • Return phase
  • True navigation
  • Wandering phase

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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