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Birds try to keep their heads still for short periods of time between steps to improve their ability to see. You can find amusing videos of chickens used as small video camera stabilizers. But does this happen to blind birds? Is it something all birds do regardless of their ability to see?

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  • $\begingroup$ I did not know that birds (mainly pigeon and a few other species) are moving their head the way they do when walking in order to improve their vision. Do you have a reference for that? $\endgroup$ – Remi.b May 17 '16 at 3:48
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    $\begingroup$ @Remi.b I wouldn't be surprised if it was influenced by this question. $\endgroup$ – Harris May 17 '16 at 16:50
  • $\begingroup$ Oh indeed thank you. @user1306322 you should relate (and link) to this post (if it is indeed your reference) and make sure to not over interpret what is being said (it does not talk about walking). $\endgroup$ – Remi.b May 17 '16 at 17:50
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    $\begingroup$ My question was inspired mostly by Mumbles, a chicken born without eyes and prior knowledge about the reason why birds bob their heads. No SE questions were used as inspiration for this post. I'd appreciate if users did not assume unnecessary things for everyone's sake here. $\endgroup$ – user1306322 May 19 '16 at 7:06
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The forward thrusting movement so peculiar of pigeons and other fowl (Fig. 1) while walking is thought to be related to shifting the visual field. The less visible backward motion of the head is thought to be related to fixating the field of view (Dunlap & Mowler (1931).

According to the meticulous observational study by Dunlap & Mowler (1931), blindfolded pigeons stop making head movements altogether while walking. They stop their forward thrusting motion, the backward motion as well as more random scanning head movements. Hence, the authors conclude that the forward and backward jerking movements are related to vision, and not to hold their balance or whatsoever.

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Fig. 1. Snapshots of a pigeon walking. The head thrusts forward in the middle frame. source: Dunlap & Mowler (1931)

Reference
- Dunlap & Mowler, J Comparative Psychol (1931); 11(1): 99-113

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  • $\begingroup$ Is there any other, more recent study on the subject? 1931 was long ago, and it would be strange if no one had investigated this ever again. $\endgroup$ – Richard Hardy Feb 6 '17 at 18:26
  • $\begingroup$ @RichardHardy not that I know of, no. $\endgroup$ – AliceD Feb 6 '17 at 18:28
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    $\begingroup$ That was fast! Thanks! Does it not seem a bit weird that there are no newer studies? I assume we just might not know of them, but I am not a biologist (nowhere near). $\endgroup$ – Richard Hardy Feb 6 '17 at 18:29
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    $\begingroup$ @AliceD by any chance do you know how one could instigate researchers to organize such a study these days? Perhaps by sending some emails to parties interested in making viral study videos (the credible kind)? $\endgroup$ – user1306322 Feb 6 '17 at 19:39
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    $\begingroup$ Here is a related YouTube video bearing essentially the same message. $\endgroup$ – Richard Hardy Feb 7 '17 at 9:34

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