How do homing pigeons find their way back?

Pigeons aren’t so bird-brained after all

Famed for their ability to find their way home and trusted so much that they were used during WWI to carry messages over enemy lines, the humble pigeon is a master of navigation. There are many different theories about how these birds manage to find their way, involving almost all of their senses.

Some think these birds use visual clues, following landmarks to where they need to go. Others believe it’s the pigeon’s sense of smell that guides them. Scientists have also recently found a protein in their eyes that let them perceive the Earth’s magnetic field under certain wavelengths of light so they can follow routes home.

The Earth’s magnetic field is generated as convection currents in the planet’s molten core generate electrical currents.


There are others still who have tested pigeons’ sensitivity to the gravitational field and gained excellent results. We don’t know for sure yet, but it’s likely to be a combination of super avian senses that guide these birds home to roost.

This is how the pigeon sees the currents, like a magnetic field ‘filter’.