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PLoS One. 2010 Sep 22;5(9):e12802. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0012802.

Hawk eyes I: diurnal raptors differ in visual fields and degree of eye movement.

Author information

1
Department of Biological Sciences, California State University Long Beach, Long Beach, California, USA.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Different strategies to search and detect prey may place specific demands on sensory modalities. We studied visual field configuration, degree of eye movement, and orbit orientation in three diurnal raptors belonging to the Accipitridae and Falconidae families.

METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS:

We used an ophthalmoscopic reflex technique and an integrated 3D digitizer system. We found inter-specific variation in visual field configuration and degree of eye movement, but not in orbit orientation. Red-tailed Hawks have relatively small binocular areas (∼33°) and wide blind areas (∼82°), but intermediate degree of eye movement (∼5°), which underscores the importance of lateral vision rather than binocular vision to scan for distant prey in open areas. Cooper's Hawks' have relatively wide binocular fields (∼36°), small blind areas (∼60°), and high degree of eye movement (∼8°), which may increase visual coverage and enhance prey detection in closed habitats. Additionally, we found that Cooper's Hawks can visually inspect the items held in the tip of the bill, which may facilitate food handling. American Kestrels have intermediate-sized binocular and lateral areas that may be used in prey detection at different distances through stereopsis and motion parallax; whereas the low degree eye movement (∼1°) may help stabilize the image when hovering above prey before an attack.

CONCLUSIONS:

We conclude that: (a) there are between-species differences in visual field configuration in these diurnal raptors; (b) these differences are consistent with prey searching strategies and degree of visual obstruction in the environment (e.g., open and closed habitats); (c) variations in the degree of eye movement between species appear associated with foraging strategies; and (d) the size of the binocular and blind areas in hawks can vary substantially due to eye movements. Inter-specific variation in visual fields and eye movements can influence behavioral strategies to visually search for and track prey while perching.

PMID:
20877645
PMCID:
PMC2943905
DOI:
10.1371/journal.pone.0012802
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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