Maps aren’t just for humans

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According to a short item in the Smithsonian’s January magazine, white-crowned sparrows map their navigation routes to their wintering grounds in Mexico and the Southwestern United States. The study looked at the navigation path of 15 adult and 15 juvenile birds. As the birds mature they build a mental map of their wintering grounds so that they can return to the location even if their starting point changes. White-crowned sparrows normally summer in Alaska but the 30 captured birds were released from New Jersey. The adult birds accurately changed their route to a southwesterly direction while the juvenile birds, out of genetic instinct, flew due south, missing their target.

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