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Hummingbirds use low acuity vision to dock into flowers


Hummingbirds are well known plant pollinators. They have the ability to hover in front of flowers and maneuver back and forth to insert their long bills into the corolla and to get the nectar. The complexity of this visual task suggests that hummingbirds would use high acuity vision to successfully dock into flowers. However, a recent paper published in Frontiers in Neuroscience from Prof. Fernandez-Juricic lab found that not to be the case. Hummingbirds have two centers of acute vision in each eye, but none of them project into the binocular field. Thus, hummingbirds dock into flowers using actually their relatively narrow binocular fields, which provide low acuity vision. Actually, the hummingbird visual system (four centers of acute vision and a narrow binocular field) is more similar to that of other avian predatory species (hawks, eagles, falcons, etc.). This may be explained by insects being an important part of the hummingbird diet. Overall, hummingbird vision appears more specialized in insect hunting.   

Citation: Tyrrell LP, Goller B, Moore BA, Altshuler DL and Fernández-Juricic E (2018) The Orientation of Visual Space from the Perspective of Hummingbirds. Front. Neurosci. 12:16.

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