I am writing a story and I specifically need a bird with infrared vision. Worst case scenario I just invent one but that would break the pattern in my story.

The closest thing I have seen from researching myself was this statement, "tawny owl's retina has about 56,000 light-sensitive rods per square millimetre (36 million per square inch); although earlier claims that it could see in the infrared part of the spectrum have been dismissed."

So apparently it was proven that the Tawny Owl (Strix aluco) does not have infrared vision. I couldn't find a better forum to ask this on (I don't know, is there a zoology forum?) so my last resort would be a biologist.

  • $\begingroup$ I read somewhere it was suggested some falcons may have infrared vision, but I have no source. Also, if I remember well some nectar-feeding hummingbirds can see near IR, but no full blown IR vision. $\endgroup$
    – Alexlok
    Commented Apr 3, 2017 at 19:00
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I posted a recent answer that might give you some background here. A quick tl;dr is that true infrared vision (like in snakes) doesn't happen except for specialized organs that aren't really vision anymore. However, in other cases, infrared really just means "marginally red shifted vs. human vision" which is a lot more likely but also a lot less impressive. $\endgroup$
    – Bryan Krause
    Commented Apr 3, 2017 at 20:19
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I looked on Google Scholar for "avian infrared vision" and "bird infrared vision" and found nothing, so it seems fairly unlikely unless there is something very obscure. Frankly, I think it is unlikely that the physiology of enough bird retinas or behaviors have been studied to conclusively say there are no birds with red-shifted visual capabilities. $\endgroup$
    – Bryan Krause
    Commented Apr 3, 2017 at 20:21
  • $\begingroup$ @BryanKrause I agree, it may be possible that such a bird exists but hasn't been properly studied... well thanks for the help I guess I'll work with what I've got $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 3, 2017 at 21:15
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Just fort the record, @Alexlok: you confuse near IR with near UV. Opposite end of the spectrum. :) $\endgroup$
    – aae
    Commented Apr 18, 2017 at 14:09


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