The Homing Instinct by Bernd Heinrich

The homing instinct: meaning and mystery in animal migrationThe homing instinct: meaning and mystery in animal migration by Bernd Heinrich

This is a fascinating look at the pull of home and whether it’s in our DNA to gravitate there in this book by New England-based scientist Bernd Heinrich. He covers a range of species, moths  eels, whales and humans – looking at both the mechanics and motivation that influences their migrations.

He explores the ability of animals to travel great distances – war leaders from Julius Caesar to those serving in World War 1 have used pigeons to carry orders. He says pigeon post is “probably more reliable for transmitting secret messages than the telephone and internet are today”.

Geese imprint true visual landscape memory; fish, insects, amphibians use scent trails to pinpoint their home if they are displaced from it; the tiniest songbirds are equipped for solar and magnetic orienteering over vast distances. When a pair of  cranes return to their home pond in the Alaska tundra, they show unmistakable signs of deep  emotion.

It’s a beautifully written and fascinating book about the pull of home.