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Sci Rep. 2013 Dec 2;3:3231. doi: 10.1038/srep03231.

Looking above the prairie: localized and upward acute vision in a native grassland bird.

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Department of Biological Sciences, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907, USA.


Visual systems of open habitat vertebrates are predicted to have a band of acute vision across the retina (visual streak) and wide visual coverage to gather information along the horizon. We tested whether the eastern meadowlark (Sturnella magna) had this visual configuration given that it inhabits open grasslands. Contrary to our expectations, the meadowlark retina has a localized spot of acute vision (fovea) and relatively narrow visual coverage. The fovea projects above rather than towards the horizon with the head at rest, and individuals modify their body posture in tall grass to maintain a similar foveal projection. Meadowlarks have relatively large binocular fields and can see their bill tips, which may help with their probe-foraging technique. Overall, meadowlark vision does not fit the profile of vertebrates living in open habitats. The binocular field may control foraging while the fovea may be used for detecting and tracking aerial stimuli (predators, conspecifics).

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