May 13, 2004 — Migrating birds may get their internal compass through a chemical reaction induced by the Earth's magnetic field rather than through magnetic material in their beaks, as the conventional theory holds, suggests a new study published in the journal Nature.

"Migratory birds have long been known to possess a magnetic compass that helps them find the correct direction during their migratory flights," said lead author of the study Thorsten Ritz, a physicist at the University of California, Irvine, in a press release.