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Klaus Esterluß | Biodiversity & ...

Lost in migration

European robin, photo credit:  © Francis C. Franklin / CC-BY-SA-3.0,

European robin, photo credit: © Francis C. Franklin / CC-BY-SA-3.0,

We all are creating electromagnetic noise, literally all the time. That’s bad news for birds, a study reveals. According to the work of the University of Oldenburg, migrating birds such as the European robin may lose their way when exposed to the noise of radio signals and other electronic devices. The researchers exposed birds to background electromagnetic noises at the University’s campus which happens to be in a densely populated area with a lot of traffic. During the test the birds, which were in windowless wooden huts could not orientate themselves using their magnetic compass.

The robins’ compass relies on the magnetic field of the earth when they fly from north to south. The field is strong enough to guide birds even when inside a windowless room, if there’s no disturbing noise. To prove the results, the scientists carried out the tests again but with birds in electrically grounded, aluminum-screened huts. These huts are able to block noises between 50 kHz and 5 MHz. Guess what? The birds did not lose their navigation. And again, if the electromagnetic noise was introduced into the aluminum huts, the ability to navigate was lost. The researchers repeated the experiments during migrating seasons for seven years.

Incidentally, the test results, published in the journal Nature, did not apply for mobile phones signals, which have a different frequency.


May 14, 2014



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