Vision, touch and object manipulation in Senegal parrots Poicephalus senegalus

Zoe P. Demery, Jackie Chappell, Graham R. Martin

Abstract

Parrots are exceptional among birds for their high levels of exploratory behaviour and manipulatory abilities. It has been argued that foraging method is the prime determinant of a bird's visual field configuration. However, here we argue that the topography of visual fields in parrots is related to their playful dexterity, unique anatomy and particularly the tactile information that is gained through their bill tip organ during object manipulation. We measured the visual fields of Senegal parrots Poicephalus senegalus using the ophthalmoscopic reflex technique and also report some preliminary observations on the bill tip organ in this species. We found that the visual fields of Senegal parrots are unlike those described hitherto in any other bird species, with both a relatively broad frontal binocular field and a near comprehensive field of view around the head. The behavioural implications are discussed and we consider how extractive foraging and object exploration, mediated in part by tactile cues from the bill, has led to the absence of visual coverage of the region below the bill in favour of more comprehensive visual coverage above the head.

Footnotes

    • Received February 22, 2011.
    • Accepted April 5, 2011.
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