Bird’s-eye Views

Humans tend to interact with animals as if they see the world in pretty much the same way that we do. However, the more scientists study animal vision, the more they tell us that’s just not the way that it is. Furthermore, what scientists know about animal vision goes way beyond the fact that our pet cats and dogs can’t see color the same way that we do.

In fact, what they tell us about what birds can “see” is particularly awesome!

For example, birds can see ultraviolet light, so that means they can essentially see a forth primary color. They also have the bizarre ability to “see” magnetic fields. Here’s a video that includes an explanation of a wide variety of things that birds can see along with some interesting facts about our own vision.

This week a paper was even published about how scientists modeled a bird’s ultraviolet vision to show how perceiving ultraviolet light aids them in their navigating through dense forests. There are some neat photos in the article that illustrate the difference between how we and birds would see the leaves of trees.
Birds Can See a ‘Colour’ Humans Can’t. Now Scientists Have Revealed This Hidden World (Tessa Koumoundouros)
Avian UV vision enhances leaf surface contrasts in forest environments (Cynthia Tedore & Dan-Eric Nilsson, Nature Communications)

Some research has also came out with more detail about how birds perceive magnetic fields. Warning, it’s kind of mind bending!


The mystery of how birds navigate is over, and the answer is so amazing (Philip Perry, Big Think)
Migratory birds eye-localized magnetoreception for navigation (University of Southern Denmark)
How birds can detect the Earth’s magnetic field (Lund University)

See, awesome stuff! It gives a whole new meaning to bird’s-eye view, doesn’t it?

While I was doing some research for this post, I also tripped across this slick site from National Geographic with a nice visualization of bird migration patterns.
Millions of Birds Migrate: Where do they go? (National Geographic)

Lest you be disappointed that the title of the post promised a “bird’s-eye view,” here’s a 360° video that shows an eagle’s point of view while soaring over Dolomites in Italy.

In case you’re interested, here’s a video that describes a multitude of incredible ways that other animals perceive the world.

Finally, there’s another post on this site that goes into more depth about animal vision

Find out more about birds and animals