A Clever Bird Thing

I’ve had several odd encounters with birds over the years and I’m always on the lookout for interesting bird antics. Last week, I witnessed something I’d never seen before…

Driving home through the countryside, my car caught up to the bright flash of a white seagull flying above the road, level with the treetops. There was no traffic behind me, so I knocked my speed down to keep up with the bird, and it kept peering down at me every so often, close enough for me to see its curious eye.

After a couple of kilometres, we reached a T-junction with the main highway together, where I expected to lose the bird. I indicated right and noticed the seagull also turn right directly above the road ahead of me.

“Strange,” I thought to myself, pulling onto the highway (and narrowly missing an oncoming truck in my distraction). I’d never seen a bird following roads before, and just assumed it was a coincidence.

A few hundred metres later, there was a turn off the highway to the left. I kept going straight, but the bird… the bird turned left! As I watched it fly purposefully down its chosen route, it swiveled its head to look at me one last time with its curious eye. Clever bird.

So, do birds navigate by roads?

After a long search, I came across a 2004 article about a study by Oxford University that found homing pigeons and crows can find their way by following roads. And, unless my seagull was a glorious anomaly, seagulls do it too.

If you spot any birds that are obviously following roads to get where they’re going, please remember this post and come back here to let me know. I’d love that ❤️

“Roads and important things like roundabouts do appear to be very attractive to birds. If they have made the journey before, the pigeons are more likely to say, ‘Well, I know this is south – the way I want to be going – but rather than fiddle around with my inbuilt compass I’m going to follow the A34, which will take me home nicely’.”

Prof. Tim Guilford, Dept. of Zoology, Oxford University

Photo Credits:

Seagull close up by Павел Гавриков | Flying Seagull by Mudassir Ali (Pexels)


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