Just what the title states.

I recognize people around me by their facial appearance to begin with, then by their little idiosyncracies; this applies perhaps to most other humans too. We rely pretty heavily on vision - perhaps because we are a primarily diurnal species gifted with the ability to distinguish colour. But then, so are birds of prey e.g. eagle, kite ...

Do diurnal birds of prey identify each other by their appearance?


2 Answers 2


Having seen some nature documentaries about Penguins identifying their offspring using sound alone (even in flocks of hundreds of thousands of other birds), my immediate impression was that sound is likely to be more important with regard to recognizing individuals of the same species.

This is corroborated by Melissa Mayntz, a bird enthusiast, who has written a great account on birds use of their 5 senses (Understanding Bird Senses).

To summarize, she explains that whilst sight is a birds most important sense in terms of hunting and avoiding being hunted, their hearing is is their second most important sense and they use this to identify individuals;

Birds hear a smaller frequency range than humans, but they have much more acute sound recognition skills. Birds are especially sensitive to pitch, tone and rhythm changes and use those variations to recognize other individual birds, even in a noisy flock.

  • $\begingroup$ Just going to the link (+: Thank you! ... but in the interim I would point out that flocking birds such as the penguin may identify each other differently than loners as birds of prey usually are $\endgroup$
    – Everyone
    Commented Oct 8, 2012 at 18:24
  • $\begingroup$ @Everyone that is true of course - but I imagine that a bird of prey would call to identify themselves to another bird, as you would have to be much closer to identify by sight. We use sound to identify people easily too - over the phone for example we can easily recognize a voice we know, without having any prior knowledge as to who it may be. I'm speculating of course, but it seems to me that sound would be much more useful to a bird in flight, or in a tree, because you may not be able to see one another! $\endgroup$
    – Luke
    Commented Oct 8, 2012 at 18:32

Recent research has indicated that wild American crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos) can recognize individual human faces (Mazluff et al. 2010). If crows can recognize individual people, then it might not be too farfetched that other bird groups can recognize each other by appearance.


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