Form and Function in the Optical Structure of Bird Eyes

  • G. R. Martin


The anatomy of bird eyes has often been described in near eulogistic terms. Polyak (1957, p. 852), for example, reported that the eyes of swallows (Hirundo rustica) exhibit “extraordinary development” and asserted (in the absence of detailed descriptions) that they are “a model of structural and functional refinement”. Ornithologists have tended to accept such strong assertions as confirmatory evidence of the general primacy of vision in the control of much bird behaviour (e.g. Welty and Baptista 1988; Gill 1990). However, knowledge of eye structures which can be explicitly related to particular visual tasks is limited to relatively few of the presently extant bird species (numbering between 9200–9700). Since bird species occupy a wide diversity of habitats and exhibit a great diversity of life styles (Welty and Baptista 1988; Gill 1990; Sibley and Ahlquist 1990; Sibley and Monroe 1990; Brooke and Birkhead 1991; Howard and Moore 1991) there is a clear need to broaden the comparative base if general principles concerning the form and function of birds’ eyes and their evolutionary origins are to be understood.


Optical Structure European Starling Refractive Power Ambient Light Level Binocular Field 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • G. R. Martin
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Continuing StudiesThe University of BirminghamBirminghamUK

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