White‐headed Vulture Trigonoceps occipitalis shows visual field characteristics of hunting raptors

Steve Portugal, Campbell Murn, Gaham Martin

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The visual fields of Aegypiinae vultures have been shown to be adapted primarily to meet two key perceptual challenges of their obligate carrion-feeding behaviour: scanning the ground and preventing the sun’s image falling upon the retina. However, field observations have shown that foraging White-headed Vultures (Trigonoceps occipitalis) are not exclusively carrion-feeders; they are also facultative predators of live prey. Such feeding is likely to present perceptual challenges that are additional to those posed by carrion-feeding. Binocularity is the key component of all visual fields and in birds it is thought to function primarily in the accurate placement and time of contact of the talons and bill, especially in the location and seizure of food items. We determined visual fields in White-headed Vultures and two species of carrion-eating Gyps vultures, and show that the visual field of White-headed Vultures have more similarities with those of predatory raptors (e.g. Accipitrid hawks), compared with the taxonomically more closely related Gyps vultures. We found that maximum binocular field width in White-headed vultures (30°) is significantly wider than Gyps vultures (20°). The broader binocular fields in White-headed Vultures probably facilitate accurate placement and timing of the talons when capturing evasive live prey.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)463–466
Number of pages4
Issue number2
Early online date16 Dec 2016
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2017

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