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Chicken Compass

September 21, 2005

Researchers confirm that some barnyard birds have a magnetic "sixth sense."

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):
A chicken’s internal compass. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Birds use the Earth’s magnetic field to find their way — even birds that don’t go very far. Zoologist Raf Freire of the University of New England in Australia and his colleagues placed baby chicks in a large box with a screen in each corner. They trained the chicks to find a ping-pong ball hidden behind one of the screens. Freire says the team then shifted the magnetic field in the box by 90 degrees…

RAF FREIRE (University of New England in Australia):
And sure enough when we let the chickens go they went walking off at 90 degrees of what they did earlier on.

HIRSHON:
Leading the scientists to conclude that chickens can use the Earth’s magnetic field to navigate. Although scientists have long believed that migrating birds use internal compasses, Freire says this is the first time anyone’s been able to train a bird to respond to a magnetic field.

I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.