Within a population, the evolution of migratory behavior is accompanied by a suite of physiological, behavioral, and cognitive adaptations. Spatial memory is associated with the hippocampus in mammals and birds; in some cases, hippocampal neuroanatomy correlates with differences in behavior. In a recent study, a migratory subspecies of sparrow, the Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis hyemalis), performed better on room-scale spatial memory tests than did a nonmigratory conspecific. Migrants collected after migration also possessed greater hippocampal neuron density, which suggests a neurological basis for differences in spatial memory and a link between migratory behavior and enhanced spatial memory. It is likely that homing behavior, like migration, relies to some extent on spatial memory. In some instances, spatial memory performance has generalized across spatial scales, with pronounced differences at larger scales. We tested whether differences in spatial memory between migrants and nonmigrants, previously observed at a room scale, were detectable at a landscape scale; specifically, we investigated whether differences in homing ability could be detected after displacements of 1–40 km. We found no difference in number of returning individuals or in duration of return. Our results suggest that homing in this species may not rely on aspects of spatial memory that differed in aviary tests.
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Vol. 122 • No. 2