The eyes of starlings are specialized for different types of vision, color or movement, due to different retinal cone types.
"In 2000, a team of researchers led by biologist Dr. Nathan Hart of Queensland University in Australia revealed that the retinal cellular composition of a starling's two eyes differs.
"In its left eye, the retina has more single cones - photosensitive cells that respond to color. Conversely, in the retina of its right eye, double cones - which detect movement - predominate. The two eyes seem to fulfill different functions, which may well explain why starlings (as well as many other birds) tend to look at objects with either one eye or the other. So if a starling looks at an object with its left eye, it may be scrutinizing its coloration, whereas if it looks with its right eye, it may be watching for movement." (Shuker 2001:12)
Learn more about this functional adaptation.
- Hart, NS; Partridge, JC; Cuthill, IC. 1998. Visual pigments, oil droplets and cone photoreceptor distribution in the European starling (Sturnus vulgaris). Journal of Experimental Biology. 201(9): 1433-1446.
- Shuker, KPN. 2001. The Hidden Powers of Animals: Uncovering the Secrets of Nature. London: Marshall Editions Ltd. 240 p.
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