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No. 121: Jan-Feb 1999

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October 5, 1998: Dark Day for Homing Pigeons

Just what happened on October 5 may never be known. On that day thousands of homing pigeons were released by their proud owners in widely separated locations expecting they would quickly race home to their lofts. Few made it.

All over the planet, homing pigeons are not homing as well as they used to. Performance has been falling steadily over the past two decades. The favorite theory blames geomagnetic storms, but no such correlation has been shown. Microwaves are fingered next. Cell phones and satellite communications fill the atmosphere ever more densely with microwaves that may throw off the navigation equipment of homing pigeons, but this hasn't been demonstrated yet either.

(Ensley, Gerald; "Case of the 3,600 Disappearing Homing Pigeons Has Experts Baffled," Chicago Tribune, October 18, 1998. Cr. J. Cieciel. Also: Schoettler, Carl; "Pondering the Great Homing Pigeon Panic," Baltimore Sun, October 18, 1998.)

From Science Frontiers #121, JAN-FEB 1999. 1999-2000 William R. Corliss