How Do Migrating Birds Know Where To Go?

Written by: Luke Ward
Reading time: 1 min
Last updated: March 17, 2021

Birds that migrate during the day time can navigate themselves by the position of the sun.

Migrating Birds

When birds are migrating, they always know exactly where they are going, unlike us, when were driving, we need a Sat-Nav.

Their sense of direction is dependent on a combination of three “maps” of their own.

What is Magnetite?

What is Magnetite?

Birds have a substance called magnetite, which is located just above their beaks.

This is a mineral that the birds use to help them determine Earth’s magnetic field, so they can navigate using true north.

The Sun

The Sun

We know that sunrise and sunset will indicate east and west.

Birds that migrate during the day time can navigate themselves by the position of the sun.

Even in the middle of the day birds can ascertain where they are by the sun’s position in the sky.

Star Constellations

Star Constellations

Finally, birds that travel at night use not only the moon, but they learn the constellations and navigate by them.

The North Star is the most important as it’s in a fixed location, but all the constellations are useful in figuring out time and location.

Birds also have very keen eyesight and will use landmarks like mountains, rivers, even buildings and roads to help them find their way.

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2 Comments

  1. Finn August 19, 2019

    This is good and straight to the point, but I doesn’t tell them where. All i know now is that they use their 3 maps to fly but to where? That’s what I want to know.

  2. Ionsparo January 18, 2012

    This article tells us how birds are equipped to maintain direction but doesn’t remotely answer the question in the title… how do the birds know WHERE to go. What programs their destination in their internal GPS?