Chicken head tracking: a marvel of evolution

February 19, 2009 • 8:19 am

Many birds can keep their heads absolutely stationary while their bodies move around. (Think, for example, of a hummingbird sipping nectar from a flower while its body moves all around.)  This is an adaptation to keep the bird’s perception of the environment constant despite other gyrations of the body (such as the bobbing motion of a walking pigeon).  One of my friends called my attention to this YouTube video of the phenomenon, involving a guy holding a chicken.  It’s absolutely amazing–so much so that I wanted to try it myself. When I was in North Carolina this weekend, I visited a friend who has a pet chicken, and we tried out this maneuver with the bird.  Sure enough, the head remained stationary.  I am informed that a reputable journal will soon have a short article about bird head tracking, and I’ll post a linke to it here when it’s published in a month.

Addendum: the same guy demonstrates the phenomenon with a lovely purple martin.

6 thoughts on “Chicken head tracking: a marvel of evolution

  1. Looks like the perfect father’s day gift! But why would chickens adapt to be able to keep their heads stationary? Please post the link to the paper when it’s published.

  2. I am working on an ornithopter and this is the one problem that has me stumped. If the wings must flap up and down as well as forward and backward and twisting all the while, the reaction to the pilots seat must be eliminated. I can do the mechanics but the controls are way beyond me.

    To think that a bird brain can do it is embarassing to me. Once again, evolution solves a problem long before anyone thought about it.

  3. The word means ‘bird wing’ It gets thrust as well as lift from its wings by flapping them. The one that I’m working on gets thrust , lift and control from its moving wing.
    Wings, actually, it has at least four of them.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *