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Carphology by A Fo Ben

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Tune in, zone out?

We all know that too much television is bad for our children, but could too much radio be bad for our birdlife? Migratory birds have a bewilderingly accurate sense of direction that allows them to travel for thousands of miles to their breeding grounds when many people can barely find the hospital café. Academics studying the European robin (Erithacus rubecula) (figure 1) made the surprising discovery that robins were only able to orient to the correct migratory direction if housed in huts shielded from electromagnetic noise. This effect was not limited to one frequency—the whole of the AM radio range was implicated. Listening to the World Cup coverage on radio may be negative in more ways than one.

Figure 1

The red red robin cannot go bob bob bobbing along when listening to the Archers.

Nature 2014;509:353–6.

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