Homing home

Meet Babi the Bird, who loves to go on holiday every year. When the cold weather sets in and there is just not enough food or the variety has lessened, he and indeed all his clan, tribe and relatives decide to fly away for a break. Who knows, while there three or four junior Babis might just pop in a warmer climate with plenty of food to eat. What is their destination? Africa. To get there they have to fly for thousands of miles sometimes for miles without resting especially if they are flying over endless oceans.

Although this long flight is amazing in its self, the most intriguing fact is that Babi the Bird will locate his precise home when he gets back after the long summer break. How cool is that!

How can a tiny, little bird so many miles up in the sky find its way back through the streetless space, with no visible lines to guide it safely to it its street and eventually its perch, nest or loft (name of home depends on the birds).

The answer, among others, might be in the recent discovery made about homing pigeons – some of the most popular birds with this ability. In the far past, their legendary ability to carry coded messages attached to their miniature legs across miles to and from different war stations can attest to this attribute. Recent jobs done by pigeons include ferrying drugs such as ecstasy pills across boarder! Apparently, these pigeons have the in-built ability to hear very low sound that we lesser mortals cannot get. These sound waves known as infra sounds are the ones that they hear and follow to guide them back to their birthplaces. Thepigeaons form a sort of sound map- following the different infra sounds as they fly away. This is the same sound map that eventually leads them home. However, if there are other sounds that distract the original sound then they can become disoriented and lose their directions. Interestingly, the road blocks to their homes include; the sounds made by supersonic aircraft and very strong w
inds among many others are the very reason why they may not make it home.

Next time you see a bird in the tree, it just might have arrived for its holiday after having flown for thousands of miles. It could be a nursing mother, a hunter or a tourist. Whatever category its passport says, it is much deserving of all our respect!

Lois Nakibuuka

is an educator and counsellor