• Question: How is it that a baby bird is born with the ability to find it's way to were ever when it migrates?

    Asked by lucasjacobs to Meeks, Stephen, Tom on 25 Jun 2010 in Categories: .
    • Photo: Stephen Curry

      Stephen Curry answered on 24 Jun 2010:

      Hi Lucas

      Another great question – I really don’t know but think that it is probably ‘instinct’, meaning that it is hard-wired into the brain.

      Some species of butterfly have migratory behaviour and they (I presume) are even simpler at the brain level that birds. I wonder how much capacity a butterfly has to learn things – I suspect very little, so this is another piece of circumstantial evidence (aka guesswork) that suggests to me the ability to navigate is in-built, not learned.

    • Photo: Tom Hartley

      Tom Hartley answered on 25 Jun 2010:

      Yes. There may be other factors too, but there seems to be a genetic component (from a quick search of the literature – I didn’t know much about bird migration before). If you breed migratory birds with non-migratory species, the offspring can inherit the migratory instinct (including direction)


      Lucas (and everyone else), I’ve enjoyed answering your questions – will you think about voting for me today? I made a video to try to persuade you!