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Magnetic body alignment in migratory songbirds : a computer vision approach

  • Giuseppe Bianco
  • Robin Clemens Köhler
  • Mihaela Ilieva
  • Susanne Åkesson
Publishing year: 2019-03-11
Language: English
Publication/Series: The Journal of experimental biology
Volume: 222
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: The Company of Biologists Ltd

Abstract english

Several invertebrate and vertebrate species have been shown to align their body relative to the geomagnetic field. Many hypotheses have been proposed to explain the adaptive significance of magnetic body alignment outside the context of navigation. However, experimental evidence to investigate alternative hypotheses is still limited. We present a new setup to track the preferential body alignment relative to the geomagnetic field in captive animals using computer vision. We tested our method on three species of migratory songbirds and provide evidence that they align their body with the geomagnetic field. We suggest that this behaviour is involved in the underlying mechanism for compass orientation and calibration, which may occur near to sunrise and sunset periods. Our method could easily be extended to other species and used to test a large set of hypotheses to explain the mechanisms behind the magnetic body alignment and the magnetic sense in general.


  • Evolutionary Biology
  • Behavioural experiments
  • Geomagnetic field
  • Magnetic compass
  • Magnetic sense
  • Movement patterns


  • ISSN: 1477-9145
Susanne Åkesson
E-mail: susanne [dot] akesson [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se


Evolutionary ecology

+46 46 222 37 05

+46 70 245 04 23


Sölvegatan 37, Lund


Research group


Doctoral students and postdocs

PhD students, main supervisor

Himma Bakam

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