Chapter

Perception and Motor Control in Birds

pp 201-221

Motor Organization of the Avian Head-Neck System

  • G. ZweersAffiliated withNeurobehavioural Morphology, Institute for Evolutionary and Ecological Sciences, Leiden University
  • , R. BoutAffiliated withNeurobehavioural Morphology, Institute for Evolutionary and Ecological Sciences, Leiden University
  • , J. HeidweillerAffiliated withNeurobehavioural Morphology, Institute for Evolutionary and Ecological Sciences, Leiden University

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Abstract

This chapter reviews progress in understanding the motor patterning and control of the avian cervical column, and its underlying anatomical and neuronal basis. The avian cervical column is a highly complex system which positions the head during all behavioural patterns. In many species over 20 highly mobile cervical vertebrae are found, and up to 200 muscles run along either side of the cervical column. Numerous modal action patterns occur, each serving one of many different functions which are primarily performed by the head, and these patterns appear very flexible when external conditions change (cf. Chap. 8). A versatile system is required in order to generate numerous specific modal action patterns and to achieve flexibility in each one of them. This is accomplished by a complex mechanical construction of the cervical column, and a flexible neuro-motor patterning.