Eye-opening New Research Helps Us Understand How Birds Communicate
One species of bird is proving that eyes provide not only a window to the soul, but also an effective means of warding off unwelcome nest competitors.
by Todd Petty
A new study strengthens the case that jackdaws, crow-like birds found in Eurasia and Africa, use their eyes to communicate with other members of their own species—an ability that, up until now, was thought to only exist in humans and other primates.
Jackdaw eyes bear some resemblance to those of humans—dark pupils and colorful irises surrounded by white sclera. In fact, a 2009 study found evidence that hand-reared jackdaws could follow a human gaze to tell what a person was looking at. The new study, conducted by Gabrielle Davidson of the University of Cambridge and published in Biology Letters, is the first indication that one jackdaw can use its eyes to send a message to another…
(photos: T - Maxwell Hamilton; B - Silvia Reiche/Foto Natura/Minden Pictures/Corbis)