Birds, particularly raptors, are believed to forage primarily using visual cues. However, raptor foraging tactics are highly diverse — from chasing mobile prey to scavenging — which may reflect adaptations of their visual systems. To investigate this, we studied the visual field configuration of 15 species of diurnal Accipitriformes that differ in such tactics, first focusing on the binocular field and blind area by using a single traits approach, and then exploring the shape of the binocular field with morphometric approaches. While the maximum binocular field width did not differ in species of different foraging tactics, the overall shape of their binocular fields did. In particular, raptors chasing terrestrial prey (ground predators) had a more protruding binocular field and a wider blind area above the head than did raptors chasing aerial or aquatic prey and obligate scavengers. Ground predators that forage on mammals from above have a wide but short bill — which increases ingestion rate — and large suborbital ridge to avoid sun glare. This may explain the protruding binocular field and the wide blind area above the head. By contrast, species from the two other groups have long but narrow bills used to pluck, flake or tear food and may need large visual coverage (and reduced suborbital ridges) to increase their foraging efficiency (e.g. using large visual coverage to follow the escaping prey in three dimensions or detect conspecifics). We propose that binocular field shape is associated with bill and suborbital ridge shape and, ultimately, foraging strategies.
Simon Potier, Olivier Duriez, Gregory B. Cunningham, Vincent Bonhomme, Colleen O’Rourke, Esteban Fernandez-Juricic, and Francesco Bonadonna