Visual sensation during pecking in pigeons

Eur J Morphol. 1997 Oct;35(4):269-76. doi: 10.1076/ejom.


During the final down-thrust of a pigeon's head, the eyes are closed gradually, a response that was thought to block visual input. This phase of pecking was therefore assumed to be under feed-forward control exclusively. Analysis of high resolution video-recordings showed that visual information collected during the down-thrust of the head could be used for 'on-line' modulations of pecks in progress. We thus concluded that the final down-thrust of the head is not exclusively controlled by feed-forward mechanisms but also by visual feedback components. We could further establish that as a rule the eyes are never closed completely but instead the eyelids form a slit which leaves a part of the pupil uncovered. The width of the slit between the pigeon' eyelids is highly sensitive to both, ambient luminance and the visual background against which seeds are offered. It was concluded that eyelid slits increase the focal depth of retinal images at extreme near-field viewing-conditions. Applying pharmacological methods we could confirm that pupil size and eyelid slit width are controlled through conjoint neuronal mechanisms. This shared neuronal network is particularly sensitive to drugs that affect dopamine receptors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Beak / physiology*
  • Columbidae / physiology*
  • Eating / physiology*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Visual Fields / physiology*
  • Visual Pathways / physiology