Visual lateralization in flight: Lateral preferences in parent-offspring relative positions in geese

Elmira Zaynagutdinova, Andrea Kölzsch, Gerhard J.D.M. Müskens, Michael Vorotkov, Alexandra Sinelshikova, Andrey Giljov, Karina Karenina*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Visual lateralization arises from the differential processing of information by the two brain hemispheres and can manifest itself in animal behaviour in the form of lateral preferences. Current evidence suggests that social coordination serves as a driving force for the emergence of one-sided behavioural preferences in the populations. Collective movement is one of the most basic and ubiquitous examples of coordinated behaviour. Very little is known, however, about lateralized social interactions in such a complex and sensory demanding movement mode as flight. In the present study, we aimed at investigating lateralization in parent-offspring interactions during migratory and nonmigratory flights in greater white-fronted geese. Analyzing the GPS tracks of 19 goose families, we showed individual lateral preferences in the position of juvenile birds relative to a parent in nearly half of the juveniles. A population-level preference to follow the mother on her left side was shown in juveniles during migratory flights but not in other analyses. This preference, differently from previous findings in mammals implicating a right eye bias, may be explained by the left hemisphere advantage for the functions involved in following behaviour of migrating birds, e.g., focussed attention. This highlights different drivers of lateralization in collective movement in relation to situation-specific demands.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)159-167
Issue number2
Early online date17 Nov 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • hemispheric dominance
  • laterality
  • migration
  • social behaviour
  • spatial relationships
  • visual bias


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