Data from: The hawk-eyed songbird: retinal morphology, eye shape, and visual fields of an aerial insectivore
Tyrrell, Luke P.; Fernández-Juricic, Esteban (2017), Data from: The hawk-eyed songbird: retinal morphology, eye shape, and visual fields of an aerial insectivore, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.n7140
Swallows are a unique group of songbirds because they are active-pursuit predators that execute all aspects of hunting prey in flight: search, detection, pursuit, and capture. We show that swallows have evolved a visual system that is unlike that of any other studied songbird. Swallows have a bifoveate retina that provides sharp lateral and frontal vision, an unusually long eye that enhances spatial resolution, a large posterior blind area, and a narrow binocular field. We also show that swallows and diurnal raptors (hawks and falcons) have converged on a similar visual configuration but that, interestingly, predatory songbirds that ambush prey (flycatchers) have not converged on the same suite of traits. Despite the commonly held belief that predators rely on binocular vision, the temporal (frontally projecting) fovea present in swallows—but not present in other songbirds—is likely not involved in binocular vision. Instead, swallows have four nonoverlapping foveae in a 100° arc around the beak, which can improve the tracking of frontally located aerial prey that are engaging in evasive maneuvers. Overall, vision in pursuit predators reflects the complex sensory demands of hunting in the air at high speeds and emphasizes the importance of acute frontal vision in predators.