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European starlings use their acute vision to check on feline predators but not on conspecifics.


ABSTRACT: Head movements allow birds with laterally placed eyes to move their centers of acute vision around and align them with objects of interest. Consequently, head movements have been used as indicator of fixation behavior (where gaze is maintained). However, studies on head movement behavior have not elucidated the degree to which birds use high-acuity or low-acuity vision. We studied how European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) used high-acuity vision in the early stages of visual exploration of a stuffed cat (common terrestrial predator), a taxidermy Cooper's hawk (common aerial predator), and a stuffed study skin of a conspecific. We found that starlings tended to use their high acuity vision when looking at predators, particularly, the cat was above chance levels. However, when they viewed a conspecific, they used high acuity vision as expected by chance. We did not observe a preference for the left or right center of acute vision. Our findings suggest that starlings exposed to a predator (particularly cats) may employ selective attention by using high-acuity vision to obtain quickly detailed information useful for a potential escape, but exposed to a social context may use divided attention by allocating similar levels high- and low-quality vision to monitor both conspecifics and the rest of the environment.

SUBMITTER: Butler SR 

PROVIDER: S-EPMC5784912 | BioStudies | 2018-01-01

REPOSITORIES: biostudies

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