Journal of Comparative Physiology A

, Volume 163, Issue 3, pp 329–337 | Cite as

The visual field and visually guided behavior in the zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata)

  • Hans -Joachim Bischof


Measurements were made of the physical properties of the visual system of the zebra finch, a bird with laterally placed eyes. The use of the visual system in pecking and courtship behavior was examined. It was demonstrated that the optical axis and the fovea of the eye point in a direction about 62° from the sagittal axis of the head. The visual field of each eye covers about 170° in the horizontal plane. In the frontal region there is an overlap of about 30°–40° where the birds can see binocularly; caudally there is a ‘gap’ in the visual field of 60°. The point of best binocular viewing is in the sagittal plane at 16.5° below the beak.

Concerning movement detection, the upper threshold is 540°/s for the binocular (frontal) part of the visual field and about 1100°/s for the monocular (lateral) part. Most fixations before pecking occur monocularly. A preference for one eye during pecking was not detected. During the courtship song, a male bird directs its head towards the female. The results are discussed in comparison with findings in pigeons and chickens.


Visual Field Visual System Optical Axis Horizontal Plane Sagittal Plane 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Bischof HJ (1985) Der Anteil akustischer Komponenten an der Auslösung der Balz männlicher Zebrafinken (Taeniopygia guttata castanotis). J Ornithol 126:273–279Google Scholar
  2. Bloch S, Martinoya C (1978) Comparison of frontal and lateral visual acuity of the pigeon under behavioral fixation. J Physiol (Lond) 278:49 PGoogle Scholar
  3. Bloch S, Martinoya C (1982) Comparing frontal and lateral viewing in the pigeon. I. Tachistoscopic visual acuity as a function of distance. Behav Brain Res 5:231–244Google Scholar
  4. Bloch S, Martinoya C, Rivaud S (1981) Eye movements in birds: participation in binocular fixation and visual pursuit. J Physiol (Lond) 320:20–21Google Scholar
  5. Bloch S, Riveaud S, Martinoya C (1984) Comparing frontal and lateral viewing in the pigeon. III. Different patterns of eye movements for binocular and monocular fixation. Behav Brain Res 13:173–182Google Scholar
  6. Catania AC (1963) Techniques for the control of monocular and binocular viewing in the pigeon. J Exp Anal Behav 6:627–629Google Scholar
  7. Donovan WJ (1978) Structure and function of the pigeon visual system. Physiol Psychol 6:403–437Google Scholar
  8. Emmerton J (1983 a) Functional morphology of the visual system. In: Abs M (ed) Physiology and behavior of the pigeon. Academic, London, pp 221–241Google Scholar
  9. Emmerton J (1983b) Vision. In: Abs M (ed) Physiology and behavior of the pigeon. Academic, London, pp 245–266Google Scholar
  10. Friedman MB (1975) How birds use their eyes. In: Wright P, Caryl P, Vowles DM (eds) Neural and endocrine aspects of behavior in birds. Elsevier, Amsterdam, pp 181–204Google Scholar
  11. Goodale MA (1983) Visually guided pecking in the pigeon (Columba livia). Brain Behav Evol 22:22–41Google Scholar
  12. Güntürkün O (1985) Lateralization of visually controlled behavior in pigeons. Physiol Behav 34:575–577Google Scholar
  13. Immelmann K (1959) Experimentelle Untersuchungen über die biologische Bedeutung artspezifischer Merkmale beim Zebrafinken (Taeniopygia guttata castanotis GOULD). Zool Jb 86:438–593Google Scholar
  14. Marshall J, Mellerio J, Palmer DA (1973) A schematic eye for the pigeon. Vision Res 13:2449–2453Google Scholar
  15. Martin GR (1986a) The eye of a passeriform bird, the European starling (Sturnus vulgaris): eye movement amplitude, visual fields and schematic optics. J Comp Physiol A 159:545–557Google Scholar
  16. Martin GR (1986b) Total panoramic vision in the mallard duck,Anas platyrhynchos. Vision Res 26:1303–1305Google Scholar
  17. Martinoya C, Rey J, Bloch S (1981) Limits of the pigeon's binocular field and direction for best binocular viewing. Vision Res 21:1197–1200Google Scholar
  18. Martinoya C, Riveaud S, Bloch S (1983) Comparing frontal and lateral viewing in the pigeon. II. Velocity thresholds for movement discrimination. Behav Brain Res 8:375–385Google Scholar
  19. Martinoya C, Le Houezec J, Bloch S (1984) Pigeon's eyes converge during feeding: evidence for frontal binocular fixation in a lateral-eyed bird. Neurosci Lett 45:335–339Google Scholar
  20. McFadden SA, Reymond L (1985) A further look at the binocular visual field of the pigeon (Columba livid). Vision Res 25:1741–1746Google Scholar
  21. Mench JA, Andrew RJ (1986) Lateralization of a food search task in the domestic chick. Behav Neural Biol 46:107–114Google Scholar
  22. Meyer DB (1977) The avian eye and its adaptations. In: Crescitelli F (ed) The visual system in vertebrates. (Handbook of sensory physiology, vol VII/5) Springer, Berlin Heidelberg New York, pp 549–611Google Scholar
  23. Morris D (1954) The reproductive behavior of the zebra finch. Behaviour 6:271–322Google Scholar
  24. Nye PW (1973) On the functional differences between frontal and lateral visual fields of the pigeons. Vision Res 13:559–574Google Scholar
  25. Workman L, Andrew RJ (1986) Asymmetries of eye use in birds. Anim Behav 34:1582–1585Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hans -Joachim Bischof
    • 1
  1. 1.Fakultät für BiologieUniversität BielefeldBielefeld 1Germany

Personalised recommendations