Effects of sun compass error on spatial search by Clark's nutcrackers

Debbie M. Kelly*, Ken Cheng, Russell Balda, Alan C. Kamil

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    2 Citations (Scopus)


    Animals employ compasses during navigation, but little attention has been paid to how accuracy is maintained in the face of compass error, which is inevitable in biological systems. The use of multiple landmarks may minimize the effect of compass error. We allowed Clark's nutcrackers to cache seeds in an outdoor aviary with either one or four landmarks present, and subsequently subjected them to small clock-shifts mimicking the effects of compass error. As predicted, the results showed a significant decrease in search accuracy following the clock-shift when one landmark was present but not when four landmarks were present. These results support that nutcrackers encode information from the sun as well as terrestrial landmarks, and these spatial cues are used in a flexible manner. Overall, our results are important as they support the hypothesis that multiple landmarks may be used during situations where the sun compass has even a small amount of error.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)172-181
    Number of pages10
    JournalIntegrative Zoology
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 2019


    • Clark's nutcracker
    • clock-shift
    • error
    • landmarks
    • sun compass


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