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Dr Ursula Munro

Biography

Dr Munro has worked on the migration and orientation systems of birds for over 25 years and is considered one of the leading experts in the field. She has pioneered migration research in Australia and, with her team, has characterised the major orientation systems of birds and identified their functional properties and interactions.Her current work focuses on the magnetic sense of birds and the physiological processes underlying migration.
The ecology and management of urban wildlife and problem species are also a major focus of Dr Munro's research.
Dr Munro is the Team Leader for the School of the Environment Animal Behaviour and Wildlife Ecology Group

Professional

Recent Grants
2000-2001 Australian Research Council (ARC) Large Grant $70,000
Physiological Adaptations to Migration in Australian Birds

1998 Ausralian Research Council (ARC) Small Grant $24,000
Potential Side-Effects of Radiotransmitter Electromagnetic Emissions on Birds

1997 University of Technology, Sydney International Research Grant $22,000
Magnetic Orientation and magnetoreception in Migratory Birds

Vice-Chancellors University Staff Conference Fund $1,100
Attendance at the International Ornithological Congress, Durban, South Africa

Media
City Living is poisoning the last ibis bastion Sydney City News October 2011

Image of Ursula Munro
Associate of the Faculty, School of the Environment
DipBiol (Frankfurt), PhD (UNE)
 

Research Interests

  • Animal Movements
  • Bird Migration
  • Bird Orientation
  • Orientation Mechanisms
  • Magnetoreception
  • Biorhythms
  • Animal Nutrition and Digestion
  • Conservation of Birds
  • Pest Management
  • Sensory Physiology and Neurobiology
  • Animal Behaviour
  • Chronobiology
Can supervise: Yes

  • Animal Behaviour and Physiology
  • Wildlife Ecology
  • Terrestrial Ecology
  • Vertebrate Biology
  • Conservation Biology
  • Pest Management
  • Sensory Physiology

Book Chapters

Munro, U.H. 2003, 'Life-history and ecophysiological adaptations to migration in Australian birds' in Berthold, P; Gwinner, E; Sonnenschein E (eds), Avian Migration, Springer, Berlin- Germany, pp. 141-154.
Fischer, J.H., Munro, U.H. & Phillips, J. 2003, 'Magnetic navigation by an avian migrant?' in Berthold, P; Gwinner, E; Sonnenschein E (eds), Avian Migration, Springer, Berlin- Germany, pp. 423-432.

Journal Articles

Smith, A.C., Heidy Kikillus, K., Ross, G. & Munro, U.H. 2013, 'Breeding of the Australian white Ibis Threskiornis molucca in the urban environment', Corella, vol. 37, no. 1, pp. 1-6.
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The Australian White Ibis Threskiornis molucca has increased dramatically in the urban environment since the 1970s and requires management. Currently information on its breeding, a prerequisite for appropriate management, is scarce. We studied the reprod
Smith, A.C., Munro, U.H. & Figueira, W.F. 2013, 'Modelling urban populations of the Australian White Ibis (Threskiornis molucca) to inform management', Population Ecology, vol. 55, no. 4, pp. 567-574.
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Since the 1970s, populations of the Australian White Ibis (Threskiornis molucca) have dramatically increased in many Australian urban centres. Managers of ibis are currently focusing on limiting this bird's reproductive success in order to reduce populat
Deutschlander, M.E., Phillips, J. & Munro, U.H. 2012, 'Age-dependent Orientation To Magnetically-simulated Geographic Displacements In Migratory Australian Silvereyes (zosterops L-lateralis)', Wilson Journal Of Ornithology, vol. 124, no. 3, pp. 467-477.
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Geographic relocations of migratory passerines have shown that adults can compensate for physical displacements; juveniles on their first migration, however, use an innate clock-and-compass strategy and are unable to compensate for displacement. We exami
Denzau, S., Kuriakose, D., Freire, R., Munro, U.H. & Wiltschko, W. 2011, 'Conditioning domestic chickens to a magnetic anomaly', Journal of Comparative Physiology A: Neuroethology, Sensory, Neural, and Behavioral Physiology, vol. 197, no. 12, pp. 1137-1141.
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Young domestic chicks of two strains, ISA brown layers and White Leghorn X Australorps, were trained to associate a magnetic anomaly with food. This was done by feeding them in their housing boxes from a dish placed above a small coil that produced a magnetic anomaly roughly six times as strong as the local geomagnetic field. Unrewarded tests began on day 9 after hatching. In a square arena, two corresponding coils were placed underneath two opposite corners. One coil, the control coil, was double-wrapped producing no net magnetic field, while the other in the opposite corner produced a local magnetic anomaly similar to that experienced during feeding. The chicks favoured the corner with the anomaly from day 10 after hatching onward. Both strains of chickens showed this preference, indicating that they could sense the local changes in the magnetic field.
Smith, A.C. & Munro, U.H. 2011, 'Local and regional movements of the Australian white ibis Threskiornis molucca in Eastern Australia', Corella, vol. 35, no. 4, pp. 89-94.
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Little is known about the movements of Australian birds. Information is particularly scarce on large, aquatic birds, which are usually difficult to access and handle. Their movements are also often complex, and therefore difficult to Identify. Here we present data on the local and long distance movements of the Australian White Ibis Threskiornis molucca, a highly mobile bird, which as many other waterbirds, continues to decline In its traditional ranges in inland Australia. At the same time it has invaded coastal urban environments, where its high abundances cause many problems and require management. Our analysis of past and present banding studies reveals that Australian White Ibis travel throughout the urban environment and visit landfills, where they forage in large numbers. They also conduct long distance movements, which lead birds from breeding sites In south-eastern Australia along the eastern coast to regions further north (Queensland and Papua New Guinea). Young birds return to their hatching site, when sexually mature. Their preferences for landfills, high mobility, complex movements and current decline in inland Australia need to be considered, when developing and implementing management strategies for Australian White Ibis and ecologically similar birds.
Funnell, J.R. & Munro, U.H. 2010, 'Daily and seasonal activity patterns of partially migratory and nonmigratory subspecies of the Australian silvereye, Zosterops lateralis, in captivity', Journal of Ethology, vol. 28, no. 3, pp. 471-482.
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We recorded the locomotor activity of the partially migratory Tasmanian silvereye, Zosterops l. lateralis, and the nonmigratory mainland silvereye, Z. l. familiaris, continuously over 17 and 15 months, respectively, to identify daily and seasonal patterns. While graphing the data showed several trends, statistical analysis did not reveal a significant difference between subspecies, making this study mainly descriptive in nature. The lack of statistical differentiation was possibly due to the low number of study animals and similarities between them. During the first year in captivity, the Tasmanian birds displayed heightened activity during the migratory periods, which was most likely migratory restlessness. The Tasmanian birds did not show any nocturnal activity as in previous laboratory and field studies, rather their activity patterns were similar to those of diurnal migrants, possibly reflecting the temporally variable nature of their migration. Although the Tasmanian birds displayed higher overall activity levels than the mainland birds during the first year in captivity, the activity patterns were similar between the subspecies. Captivity appeared to influence the activity of both subspecies in the second year of the study; following the onset of molt, neither subspecies regained the activity levels of the previous year, nor did activity follow the same pattern. Possible reasons (e.g., prevention of breeding) for this are discussed. This is the most detailed study to date on the daily and seasonal activity patterns of an Australian bird in captivity.
Benesch, A., Munro, U.H., Krop, T. & Fleissner, G. 2010, 'Seasonal Changes In The Behaviour And Circadian Rhythms In Activity And Behaviour Of Captive Koalas Phascolarctos Cinereus', Biological Rhythm Research, vol. 41, no. 4, pp. 289-304.
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Feeding and locomotor activity of one male and three female koalas have been continuously observed for one year at Taronga Zoo, Sydney, Australia. Activity was not restricted to the night, but showed a clear day-night distinction with activity maxima dur
Smith, A.C. & Munro, U.H. 2010, 'Seasonal Population Dynamics Of The Australian White Ibis (Threskiornis Molucca) In Urban Environments', Emu, vol. 110, no. 2, pp. 132-136.
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Since the 1970s, the Australian White Ibis (Threskiornis molucca) has increased in abundance in coastal urban environments, where its high numbers can come into conflict with human interests. Little is known about them, and baseline information for appro
Wiltschko, W., Munro, U.H., Ford, H. & Wiltschko, R. 2009, 'Avian orientation: the pulse effect is mediated by the magnetite receptors in the upper beak', Proceedings Of The Royal Society Of London Series..., vol. 276, no. 1665, pp. 2227-2232.
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Migratory silvereyes treated with a strong magnetic pulse shift their headings by approximately 908, indicating an involvement of magnetite-based receptors in the orientation process. Structures containing superparamagnetic magnetite have been described in the inner skin at the edges of the upper beak of birds, while single-domain magnetite particles are indicated in the nasal cavity. To test which of these structures mediate the pulse effect, we subjected migratory silvereyes, Zosterops l. lateralis, to a strong pulse, and then tested their orientation, while the skin of their upper beak was anaesthetized with a local anaesthetic to temporarily deactivate the magnetite-containing structures there. After the pulse, birds without anaesthesia showed the typical shift, whereas when their beak was anaesthetized, they maintained their original headings. This indicates that the superparamagnetic magnetite-containing structures in the skin of the upper beak are most likely the magnetoreceptors that cause the change in headings observed after pulse treatment.
Freire, R., Munro, U.H., Rogers, L.J., Sagasser, S., Wiltschko, R. & Wiltschko, W. 2008, 'Different responses in two strains of chickens (Gallus gallus) in a magnetic orientation test', Animal Cognition, vol. 11, no. 3, pp. 547-552.
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Previous studies demonstrated that layer strain domestic chicks bred for egg production can orient using directional cues from the magnetic field; here we report that chicks from a broiler strain bred for meat production do not use magnetic cues for orie
Wiltschko, R., Munro, U.H., Ford, H. & Wiltschko, W. 2008, 'Contradictory results on the role of polarized light in compass calibration in migratory songbirds', Journal Of Ornithology, vol. 149, no. 4, pp. 607-614.
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Experiments with migrating birds on the interaction between magnetic and celestial cues have produced heterogeneous results. A recent study claimed that the magnetic compass in passerine migrants is calibrated by the pattern of polarized light at sunset
Wiltschko, R., Munro, U.H., Ford, H., Stapput, K. & Wiltschko, W. 2008, 'Light-dependent magnetoreception: orientation behaviour of migratory birds under dim red light', Journal Of Experimental Biology, vol. 211, no. 20, pp. 3344-3350.
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Magnetic compass orientation in migratory birds has been shown to be based on radical pair processes and to require light from the short wavelength part of the spectrum up to 565 nm Green. Under dim red light of 645 nm wavelength and 1 mW m(-2) intensity
Stark, D.J., Phillips, O., Peckett, D., Munro, U.H., Marriott, D.J., Harkness, J.L. & Ellis, J.T. 2008, 'Gorillas are a host for Dientamoeba fragilis: an update on the life cycle and host distribution', Veterinary Parasitology, vol. 151, no. 1, pp. 21-26.
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Dientamoeba fragilis is a gastrointestinal protozoan that has a workldwide distribution and is emerging as a common caise of diarrhea. As D. fragilis has a propensity to cause chronic illness with symptoms similar to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) it is not surprising that some patients with D. fragilis are misidagnosed as having IBS. In contrast to mosrt other pethogenic protozoa verylittle is known about its life ycle, epidemiology and mode of transmission. What role animal reservoirs play in the transmission pf this parasite s unknown.
Rogers, L.J., Munro, U.H., Freire, R., Wiltschko, R. & Wiltschko, W. 2008, 'Lateralized response of chicks to magnetic cues', Behavioural Brain Research, vol. 186, no. 1, pp. 66-71.
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Previous research has shown that the ability to orient with the use of directional cues from the geomagnetic field is lateralized in three avian species: orientation is possible when the birds are restricted to use of their right eye, but not when they have to use their left eye. This has been interpreted as possible lateralization of the perception mechanisms for magnetic cues in favour of the right eye. Recent discovery of magnetic compass orientation in domestic chicks, a species in which lateralization has been well studied, has made available a model system in which to explore these lateralized processes more fully. Hence we tested chicks monocularly in the same test conditions as used previously to demonstrate the chick's use of a magnetic compass. In a magnetic field with North shifted by 90 degrees, chicks using their right eye oriented according to magnetic cues, whereas chicks using the left eye did not. but continued to prefer the original direction. Analysis of the times taken to respond indicated longer latencies in the chicks using their left eye, suggesting a possible conflict between cues. The different behaviour of the chicks using their left eye might not be a matter of a right eye-left hemisphere specialization for detecting magnetic directions, but of hemispheric specialization for attending to specific types of cues. (c) 2007 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Funnell, J.R. & Munro, U.H. 2007, 'Orientation in captive migratory and sedentary Australian silvereyes Zosterops lateralis (Zosteropidae)', Behavioral Ecology And Sociobiology, vol. 61, no. 3, pp. 337-345.
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The orientation of two closely related subspecies of Australian silvereye Zosterops lateralis was studied in captivity over 14 months. Migratory silvereyes Z. lateralis lateralis showed significant directional preferences during the spring and autumn mig
Wiltschko, W., Ford, H., Munro, U.H., Winklhofer, M. & Wiltschko, R. 2007, 'Magnetite-based magnetoreception the effect of repeated pulsing on the orientation of migratory birds', Journal Of Comparative Physiology A-Neuroethology Sensory Neural And Behavioral Physiology, vol. 193, no. 5, pp. 515-522.
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Previous studies have shown that a magnetic pulse affected the orientation of passerine migrants for a short period only for about 3 days, the birds' headings were deflected eastward from their migratory direction, followed by a phase of disorientation, with the birds returning to their normal migratory direction after about 10 days. To analyse the processes involved in the fading of hte pulse effect, migratory birds were subjected to a second, identical pulse 16 days after the first pulse, when the effect of that pulse had disappeared. This second pulse affected the birds' behaviour in a different way: it caused an increase in the scatter of the birds' headings for 2 days, after which the birds showed normal migratory oreintation again. These observations are at variance with the hypothesis that the magnettite-based receptor had been fully restored, but als with the hypothesis that the input of this receptor was ignored. They indicate dynamic processes,w hich include changes in the affected receptor, but at the same time cause the birds to weigh and rate the altered input differently. The bearing of these findings on the question of whether single domains or superparamagnetic particles are involved in the magnetite-based receptors is discussed.
Wiltschko, W., Freire, R., Munro, U.H., Ritz, T., Rogers, L.J., Thalau, P. & Wiltschko, R. 2007, 'The magnetic compass of domestic chickens, Gallus gallus', Journal Of Experimental Biology, vol. 210, no. 13, pp. 2300-2310.
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By directional training, young domestic chickens have been shown to use a magnetic compass; the same method has now been used to analyse the functional characteristics and the physical principles underlying the chickens magnetic compass. Tests in magneti
Munro, U.H., Funnell, J.R. & Thomson, A.S. 2006, 'Moult in captive partially migratory and sedentary Australian silvereyes (Zosterops lateralis) (Zosteropidae)', Journal Of Ornithology, vol. 147, no. 2, pp. 287-297.
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In this study, we describe and compare the duration and timing of post-breeding moult of primary and secondary wing feathers, tail feathers, wing coverts and body feathers in captive partially migratory and non-migratory Australian silvereyes (Zosterops
Wiltschko, W., Munro, U.H., Ford, H. & Wiltschko, R. 2006, 'Bird navigation: What type of information does the magnetite-based receptor provide?', Proceedings Of The Royal Society B-Biological Sciences, vol. 273, no. 1603, pp. 2815-2820.
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Previous experiments have shown that a short, strong magnetic pulse caused migratory birds to change their headings from their normal migratory direction to an easterly direction in both spring and autumn. In order to analyse the nature of this pulse eff
Connell, K., Munro, U.H. & Torpy, F.R. 2006, 'Daytime behaviour of the grey-headed flying fox Pteropus poliocephalus Temminck (Pteropodidae: Megashirptera) at an Autumn/Winter roost', Australian Mammalogy, vol. 28, no. 1, pp. 7-14.
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The grey-headed flying fox (Pteropus policephalus Temminck) is a threatened large fruit bat endemic to Australia. It roosts in large colonies in rainforest patches, mangroves, open forest, riparian woodland and, as native habitat is reduced, increasingly in vegetation within urban environments. The general biology, ecology and behaviour of this bat remains largely unknown, which makes it difficult to effectively monitor, protect and manage this species. The current study provides baseline informationn o the daytime behaviour of P. poliocephalus in an autumn.winter roost in urban Sydney, Australia, between April and August 2003.
Corben, D. & Munro, U.H. 2006, 'Clutch size and fledgling success of thr Australian white ibis Threskionis molucca in an urban environment', Corella, vol. 30, no. 3/4, pp. 55-58.
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The Australian White Ibis Threskionis molucca is very successful in adapting to and surviving in urban environments. Overaundant and/or large, permanent populations have established in many urban areas of coastal eastern Australia. In urban areas, the Australian White Ibis is currently regarded as a major pest and many agencies aim to reduce it numbers, however,the lask of knowledge on this species has made management difficult.Inthis study clutch size and fledgling success of Australian White Ibis breeding in Centennial Park, a large urban park in Sydney, were measured. Mean clutch size was 2.70 with a modal clutch size of three. Mean number of fledglings per successful (nestlings hatched) nest was 2.64. While clutch sizes were similar to those reported for ibis in natural and non-urban environments, fledgling success was considerably higher in Centennial Park. This is most likely due to high food availability in urban areas. management of artificial food sources 9eg. landfills) might be necessary for successfully managing ibis in urban environments.
Munro, U.H. & McFadden, M.S. 2005, 'Food consumption, body mass and fat deposition in captive regent honeyeaters, Xanthomyza phrygia (Meliphagidae), during the non-breeding season', Journal Of Ornithology, vol. 146, no. 1, pp. 65-71.
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The regent honeyeater (Xanthomyza phrygia) is a large endangered honeyeater from eastern and south-eastern Australia. Little is known about the ecology of this bird during the autumn-winter period, when it is absent from its breeding areas. In this study
Freire, R., Munro, U.H., Rogers, L.J., Wiltschko, R. & Wiltschko, W. 2005, 'Chickens orient using a magnetic compass', Current Biology, vol. 15, no. 16, pp. R620-R621.
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Wiltschko, W., Munro, U.H., Ford, H. & Wiltschko, R. 2003, 'Magnetic orientation in birds: non-compass responses under monochromatic light of increased intensity', Proceedings Of The Royal Society Of London Series B-biological Sciences, vol. 270, no. 1529, pp. 2133-2140.
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Wiltschko, W., Munro, U.H., Ford, H. & Wiltschko, R. 2003, 'Lateralisation of magnetic compass orientation in silvereyes, Zosterops lateralis', Australian Journal of Zoology, vol. 51, pp. 597-602.
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Munro, U.H., McCloskey, K. & Cooke, B. 2003, 'Seasonal trends in food consumption and body mass of captive Regent Honeyeaters Xanthomyza phrygia (Meliphagidae)', Corella, vol. 27, no. 2, pp. 47-51.
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Jacklyn, P. & Munro, U.H. 2002, 'Evidence for the use of magnetic cues in mound construction by the termite Amitermes meridionalis (Isoptera: Terminae)', Australian Journal of Zoology, vol. 50, no. N/A, pp. 357-368.
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Wiltschko, W., Munro, U.H., Wiltschko, R. & Kirschvink, J.L. 2002, 'Magnetite-based magnetoreception in birds: the effect of a biasing field and a pulse on migratory behaviour', Journal of Experimental Biology, vol. 205, no. N/A, pp. 3031-3037.
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To test the hypothesis that single domain magnetite is involved in magnetoreception, we treated Australian silvereyes Zosterops l. lateralis with a strong, brief pulse designed to alter the magnetization of single domain particles. This pulse was administered in the presence of a 1 mT biasing field, either parallel to the direction of the biasing field (PAR group) or antiparallel (ANTI group). In the case of magnetoreceptors based on freely moving single domain particles, the PAR treatment should have little effect, whereas the ANTI treatment should cause remagnetization of the magnetite particles involved in a receptor and could produce a maximum change in that receptor's output for some receptor configurations. Migratory orientation was used as a criterion to assess the effect on the receptor. Before treatment, both groups preferred their normal northerly migratory direction. Exposure to the biasing field alone did not affect their behavior. Treatment with the pulse in the presence of the biasing field caused both the PAR and the ANTI birds to show an axial preference for the east west axis, with no difference between the two groups. Although these results are in accordance with magnetite-based magnetoreceptors playing a role in migratory orientation, they do not support the hypothesis that single domains in polarity-sensitive receptors are free to move through all solid angles. Possible interpretations, including other arrangements of single domains and superparamagnetic crystals, are discussed.
Wiltschko, R., Munro, U.H., Ford, H. & Wiltschko, W. 2001, 'Orientation of Migratory Birds: Time-Associated Relearning of Celestial Cues', Animal Behaviour, vol. 62, pp. 245-250.
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Cooke, B. & Munro, U.H. 2000, 'Oriental Studies on the Regent Honeyeater Xanthomyza Phyrgia (Meliphagidae) an Endangered Bird of South-Eastern Australia', Australian Journal of Zoology, vol. 48, no. 0, pp. 379-384.
Wiltschko, W., Wiltschko, R. & Munro, U.H. 2000, 'Light Dependent Magnetoreception in Birds: The Effect of Intensity of 565-nm Green Light', Naturwissenschaften, vol. 87, no. 0, pp. 366-369.
Wiltschko, W., Wiltschko, R. & Munro, U.H. 2000, 'Light Dependent Magnetoreception in Birds: Does Directional Information Change with Light Intensity', Naturwissenschaften, vol. 87, no. 0, pp. 36-40.
Wiltschko, W., Munro, U.H., Beason, R., Ford, H. & Wiltschko, R. 1994, 'A Magnetic Pulse Leads To A Temporary Deflection In The Orientation Of Migratory Birds', Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences, vol. 50, no. 7, pp. 697-700.
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Migratory Australian Silvereyes were treated with a strong magnetic pulse designed to alter the magnetization of the small magnetite particles that are found in birds heads. Prior to the treatment, the birds preferred the northeasterly migratory directio