18 Mar 2011:
Study Examines Why Birds
Fly Into Large, Human-made Objects
A new study that examines why birds often collide with large structures
that are clearly visible to humans — such as buildings, power lines, and wind turbines — suggests it comes down to a fundamental difference in the way birds view the world. While many believe bird flight is controlled primarily by vision, researchers at Birmingham University in England say there is a more subtle combination of relationships between birds’ visual capabilities, interpretation of sensory information, and behavior. “When in flight, birds may turn their heads to look down, either with the binocular field or with the lateral part of an eye’s visual field,” says Graham Martin, a professor of avian sensory science at Birmingham and author of the study
published in The International Journal of Avian Science
. “Such behavior results in certain species being at least temporarily blind in the direction of travel.” Avian front vision is also tuned to detect movement rather than spatial details (which is helpful when hunting), and many birds are unable fly slowly, making it difficult to adjust their behavior when visibility is poor. While steps can be taken to reduce bird collisions, the study suggests this can be done only on a species-by-species basis.
Yale Environment 360 is
a publication of the
Yale School of Forestry
& Environmental Studies
Yale Environment 360
articles are now available in Spanish and Portuguese on Universia
, the online educational network. Visit the site.
Business & Innovation
Policy & Politics
Pollution & Health
Science & Technology
Antarctica and the Arctic
Central & South America
Photographer Robert Wintner documents the exquisite beauty and biodiversity of Cuba’s unspoiled coral reefs. View the gallery.
is now available for mobile devices at e360.yale.edu/mobile
The Warriors of Qiugang
, a Yale Environment 360
video, chronicles a Chinese village’s fight against a polluting chemical plant. It was nominated for a 2011 Academy Award for Best Documentary Short.
Watch the video.
Top Image: aerial view of Iceland
. © Google & TerraMetrics.
A three-part series Tainted Harvest
looks at the soil pollution crisis in China, the threat it poses to the food supply, and the complexity of any cleanup. Read the series.