Think humans are good at navigation? Think again. Compared to some of the mesmerizing navigational abilities of birds and other species, human navigation is actually quite primitive. Here is our third and final part of our facts series about animal navigation from Nature’s Compass: The Mystery of Animal Navigation by James L. Gould and Carol Grant Gould. Click here to read part 1 and click here to read part 2 of our fun facts series.
Honeybee fact: The sun is a very important navigational tool for bees both in communicating the direction of a food resource and in finding the way home. As vital as the sun is, bees have trouble seeing it. It is hard for them to actually identify the sun in the sky because their visual resolution does not allow them to identify the sun as a unique shape. As a rule of thumb for bees, if a bright spot contains no more than 20% ultraviolet light and is no larger than 15° across, then it is the sun.
Bird fact: In unfamiliar territory, birds must be able to estimate the amount of distance traveled. Early sailors threw logs overboard and counted the number of knots on an attached line that were carried out in 30 or 60 seconds in order to measure speed. Each knot was 50 feet apart and this now corresponds with one nautical mile per hour. Birds come fully equipped with special circuits in their eyes to judge the rate at which the terrain below is moving and they can time how fast they are moving in intervals.
Bonus fact: Birds are migrating and nesting sooner because of climate change. They believe the planet is getting warmer and are betting their lives on it.