How Birds Navigate

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Many avian life forms posses a region of their bodies that contain a biological magnetite, generally in their beaks.  It is believed this gives them a strong magnetoception and thus allows them to sense direction accurately.  More recently, it has been shown that certain birds have the ability to see magnetic fields.  How this works is the Earth’s magnetic field effects how long a certain molecule, cryptochrome, in their photoreceptor cells stays in the active state.  This then affects the light sensitivity of the bird’s retinal neurons.  The net effect is the birds can perceive magnetic fields with their eyes.   The biological magnate and ability to perceive magnetic fields with their eyes are thought to combine to form a very accurate mapping and directional system in the birds.

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