Magnetoreception-based Navigation Mechanism of Black-faced Spoonbill

Ciann Dong Yang, Tsung Han Lu, Wei Ju Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Studying the birds' natural ability of long-range migration hopefully improves the existing navigation technology. The ability of navigation using the geomagnetic field is known as magnetoreception. Recently, a theory based on quantum mechanics reports that the geomagnetic field can affect some molecular chemical reactions of birds and thereby change their flight directions. This chemical magnetoreception process is called radical pair (RP) mechanism. This paper uses quantum spin theory to analyze the magnetoreception effect caused by the reaction of free radical pairs to the geomagnetic field. A quantum spin model is established here to simulate the bird's visual magnetic compass as a navigation tool to sense their orientations with respect to the geomagnetic field. The established visual magnetic compass is then applied to verify the magnetoreception of Platalea minor, commonly known as black-faced spoonbill. By tracking the GPS signals of an individual Platalea minor, the actual migration path is successfully incorporated into the mathematical model to reconstruct the visual images of the geomagnetism on the retina of Platalea minor and to expound its magnetoreception navigation ability along the migratory route from Taijiang National Park in Taiwan to the border area between North and South Korea.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)423-436
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Aeronautics, Astronautics and Aviation
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Dec 1

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Space and Planetary Science


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