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Some Birds Can See Magnetic Fields

Some birds can sense the Earth’s magnetic field. Birds like the European robins can actually see magnetic fields, the result of special molecules in their retinas,. The fields appear as patterns of light or color superimposed over what they normally see.

This ‘magnetoreception’ ability depends on a clear image from the right eye -- if the image becomes distorted, the birds become disoriented.  If the left eye is covered, however, they can navigate just fine.

Discover Magazine reports:

“The magnetic sense of birds was first discovered in robins in 1968, and its details have been teased out ever since. Years of careful research have told us that the ability depends on light and particularly on the right eye and the left half of the brain. The details still aren’t quite clear but, for now, the most likely explanation involves a molecule called cryptochrome.”

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