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Electroreception and magnetoreception are two senses widely used by organisms in many different environments. Electroreception has primarily been studied and observed in aquatic species, with the exception of echidnas and bumblebees (it is generally accepted that electric fields are less detectable in air than water). Magnetoreception, however, is much more well understood in a terrestrial context than electroreception. Migratory birds use magnetoreception as a guide during long travel distances, whereas non-migratory birds use magnetoreception to orient themselves around their home base. However, it is unknown whether or not magnetoreception is used by birds for purposes outside of navigation and orientation. In my experiment I tested to see whether or not a few species of non-migratory songbirds using magnetoreception could detect localized magnetic fields and use them to make foraging decisions. I used test feeders with two feeder holes to test whether or not songbirds foraged on the side with the magnetic field more often than not. I found that neither black-capped chickadees, tufted titmice, nor white-breasted nuthatches made foraging decisions at my feeder based on the presence and position of the magnet. I concluded that songbirds don’t use the detection of localized magnetic fields to make foraging decisions, rather songbirds may forage using vision or smell. Future studies focused around woodpeckers, ground-feeding songbirds, shorebirds, and diving ducks should be conducted considering electromagnetic fields are more functional in watery environments. Further, more knowledge on the use of electric fields by birds is helpful, considering an increase in man made electromagnetic fields may have adverse effects on birds and other organisms who use electromagnetic fields or can at the very least sense them.
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Love, Andrew Charles, "Non-Migratory Wintering Songbirds Don’t Rely on Magnetic Fields When Making Foraging Decisions at Feeders" (2023). Senior Projects Spring 2023. 21.
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