What’s he looking at?

What’s this Northern Mockingbird looking at?

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The object of the mocker’s attention is two Red-tailed Hawks taking advantage of the perfect soaring weather of January 29 to rehearse their courtship flight.

2 responses to What’s he looking at?

    • Greg Dodge
      Greg Dodge says:

      Good question.
      In general, birds’ vision is indeed very good, but in different ways relative to the family that a particular species belongs to. Raptors and passerines (song birds, such as our mockingbird), can resolve details at around 2.5 to 3 times the distance as we humans can.
      Birds’ eyes are large, much larger than us humans in relation to head size. The eye of a mockingbird may contain as many as 400,000 cones per square millimeter concentrated in two areas of the retina, whereas in the human eye, probably no more than 200,000 per square millimeter concentrated in one central area of the retina. Cones are the daylight receptors of the retina.
      There’s still much to be learned about vision in birds, but I would suggest that an animal that makes its living flying during daylight hours would need to see well, whether to avoid flying into objects, or to avoid being eaten.
      Avian vision may be the topic of a future blog entry. There are many fascinating things about the way birds perceive the world through their eyes.
      By the way, any time that you observe a bird tilting its head sideways to peer up at the sky, it may be worth it for you to take a glance skyward. I’ve been alerted to many high flying hawks, vultures, and other birds thanks to an attentive earthbound bird staring up at the sky.
      Have a good one.

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