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How Do Hens View Other Hens? the Use of Lateral and Binocular Visual Fields in Social Recognition

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When shown familiar and unfamiliar birds at different distances, hens viewed birds 0.7 m or 1.4 m away with modal head angles between 54° and 72° from the midline, using the lateral visual field but viewed birds closer (less than 20 cm) binocularly, with the head within 18° either side of the midline (Expt. 1 When faced with a choice between a familiar and an unfamiliar bird at different distances, hens chose the familiar bird if the choice could be made 8 cm away but their choices were random if they had to chose 66 or 124 cm away (Expt. 2). This suggests that hens may be unable to discriminate familiar from unfamiliar birds except when they are very close to them. Observations of freely moving birds suddenly confronted with another hen (Expt. 3) showed that even when the object bird was familiar, it was in all cases initially scrutinized from a close distance (26 cm or less), which is consistent with the hypothesis that hens are unable to recognize other birds except when close enough to view them with the myopic lower frontal field. Reasons for this constraint on social recognition are discussed.

Affiliations: 1: (Department of Zoology, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3PS, U.K.)


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