Visual fields in Flamingos: chick-feeding versus filter-feeding
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- Martin, G.R., Jarrett, N., Tovey, P. et al. Naturwissenschaften (2005) 92: 351. doi:10.1007/s00114-005-0010-0
In birds, the position and extent of the region of binocular vision appears to be determined by feeding ecology. Of prime importance is the degree to which vision is used for the precise control of bill position when pecking or lunging at prey. In birds that do not require such precision (probe and filter-feeders), the bill falls outside the binocular field, which extends above and behind the head, thus providing comprehensive visual coverage. Flamingos Phoenicopteridae are highly specialised filter-feeders. They employ a unique technique that does not require accurate bill positioning in which the inverted head is placed between the feet. Feeding flamingos often walk forwards with the head pointing “backwards”. Here we show that in Lesser Flamingos Phoeniconaias minor visual fields are in fact the same as those of birds that feed by precision pecking and that feeding flamingos are blind in the direction of their walking. We suggest that this is due to the requirement for accurate bill placement when flamingos feed their chicks with “crop-milk”, and possibly when building their nest. We propose that chick-feeding may be the ultimate determinant of visual field topography in birds, not feeding ecology.