Bird Strike Committee Proceedings


Date of this Version

August 2003


For too many birds their environment includes airfields and aircraft. Knowing avian sensory abilities, researchers can design experiments and develop new devices and techniques to deter birds from aircraft on and away from airfields. How birds perceive the world about them determines many choices, including foraging, predator avoidance, and flight. Most experiments to investigate the sensory abilities of birds have been developed and analyzed using only human sensory capabilities, which often differ markedly from those of birds. My objective is to review and synthesize what is known and what is unknown about avian sensory capabilities. Compared with humans, birds can distinguish more colors and detect ultraviolet and polarized light directly. Their range of auditory sensitivity is narrower than humans but some species can hear sounds at least as high pitched as humans. Their chemical sensitivity is similar to humans in most cases but varies seasonally and can approach that of rodents. Avian vestibular sensitivity appears to be similar to other vertebrates but has received little investigation. There is a great deal we do not know about avian sensory perception that we need to know to make aircraft more obvious to birds and improve the effectiveness of dispersal techniques for individual species of birds.