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Rock Pigeons: Bobbleheads

Why they teeter as they walk

A Rock Pigeon bobs its head as it walks, making it appear that its head and feet are linked. Pigeons' eyes are on the sides of their heads, permitting them to watch for predators from all directions, but limiting their ability to distinguish distances. To compensate, these birds move their heads and can see differences in apparent motion between nearby and distant objects. Your local Audubon chapter can help you learn more about birds.

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Full Transcript

Transcript: 
BirdNote®

Rock Pigeons: Bobbleheads

Written by Frances Wood

This is BirdNote!

[Cooing of Rock Pigeons in urban setting]

Anyone who has spent time watching Rock Pigeons has probably noticed that pigeons bob their heads forward and back as they walk. It appears their head and feet are linked. When they walk, they bob; when standing still, they don’t.

[Rock Pigeons cooing]

To understand why Rock Pigeons bob their heads, we need to know some basics about birds’ vision. We humans have two eyes facing the same direction, which gives us depth perception. Pigeons’ eyes, though, are on the sides of their heads, permitting them to watch for predators from all directions, but limiting their ability to distinguish distances.

To compensate, these birds move their heads. By doing so, they can rely on differences in apparent motion between nearby and distant objects. Closer objects appear to move faster than do distant objects.

[City sounds]

If the Rock Pigeons in the park are standing still, they have little need for depth perception. But once they begin to strut around looking for food, the head-bobbing kicks in, giving the impression their head and feet are connected.

[More Rock Pigeons cooing]

BirdNote is produced by John Kessler. Our executive producer is Chris Peterson. Writers include Bob Sundstrom, Dennis Paulson, Todd Peterson, Ellen Blackstone and Frances Wood. I’m Michael Stein.

[More Rock Pigeons cooing]

###

Cooing of the Rock Pigeon provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Recorded by A.L.Priori

Ambient sounds provided by Kessler Productions and by C. Peterson

Producer: John Kessler

Executive Producer: Chris Peterson

© 2013 Tune In to Nature.org   July 2016/2019   Narrator: Michael Stein

ID#071805ROPIKPLU   ROPI-03c

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