Top Birds Stay Slim and Other Avian News

The results are in from Australian researchers curious about why birds tend to use one eye at a time

06-01-2000 // NWF Staff

The right eye gets the worm: The results are in from Australian researchers curious about why birds tend to use one eye at a time. In a study of European starlings, the scientists concluded the birds' left eyes hold more single-cone cells, and their right eyes hold more double-cone cells. That probably means the left eyes are best at perceiving color, while the right eyes are best at spotting movement.

Pigeons don't bob: What does a pigeon do with its head as it walks? The bird may appear to bob along, but many studies have found that strolling pigeons don't pull their heads back after thrusting them forward. But might the birds be nodding or turning their heads? Now there is an answer, from German scientists who did a frame-by-frame analysis: The birds move their heads forward and then hold them locked in space as they step, which may help lock in views of their surroundings.

Thin is in: Socially dominant birds tend to be leaner than their peers, according to recent Ohio State University research. That's probably because top birds can trust they'll eat well when they need to, so they have the luxury of watching out for predators instead of constantly foraging. Leanness also makes the birds more maneuverable, an asset if they are attacked. That doesn't mean top birds are on perpetual diets: They make sure to chow down before cold nights to stoke up their internal furnaces.

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