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Raptor vision

Author:
  • Mindaugas Mitkus
  • Simon Potier
  • Graham R. Martin
  • Olivier Duriez
  • Almut Kelber
Publishing year: 2018
Language: English
Document type: Article in encyclopedia
Publisher: Oxford University Press

Abstract english

Diurnal raptors (birds of the orders Accipitriformes and Falconiformes), renowned for their extraordinarily sharp eyesight, have fascinated humans for centuries. The high visual acuity in some raptor species is possible due to their large eyes, both in relative and absolute terms, and a high density of cone photoreceptors. Some large raptors, such as wedge-tailed eagles and the Old World vultures, have visual acuities twice as high as humans and six times as high as ostriches—the animals with the largest terrestrial eyes. The raptor retina has rods, double cones, and four spectral types of single cones. The highest density of single cones occurs in one or two specialized retinal regions: the foveae, where, at least in some species, rods and double cones are absent. The deep central fovea allows for the highest acuity in the lateral visual field that is probably used for detecting prey from a large distance. Pursuit-hunting raptors have a second, shallower, temporal fovea that allows for sharp vision in the frontal field of view. Scavenging carrion eaters do not possess a temporal fovea that may indicate different needs in foraging behavior. Moreover, pursuit-hunting and scavenging raptors also differ in configuration of visual fields, with a more extensive field of view in scavengers.

The eyes of diurnal raptors, unlike those of most other birds, are not very sensitive to ultraviolet light, which is strongly absorbed by their cornea and lens. As a result of the low density of rods, and the narrow and densely packed single cones in the central fovea, the visual performance of diurnal raptors drops dramatically as light levels decrease. These and other visual properties underpin prey detection and pursuit and show how these birds’ vision is adapted to make them successful diurnal predators.

Keywords

  • Zoology
  • Accipitriformes, Falconiformes, raptors, foraging, eye, fovea, photoreceptors, vision, visual acuity, visual field

Other

Published
  • Lund Vision Group
  • ISBN: 9780190264086
Simon Potier
E-mail: simon [dot] potier [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se

Postdoctoral fellow

Functional zoology

4

Research group

Lund Vision Group

Projects

Bird visual ecology

Postdoc host

Almut Kelber

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