Pigeons (C. livia) Follow Their Head during Turning Flight: Head Stabilization Underlies the Visual Control of Flight
Ros, Ivo G.
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CitationRos, Ivo G., and Andrew A. Biewener. 2017. “Pigeons (C. livia) Follow Their Head during Turning Flight: Head Stabilization Underlies the Visual Control of Flight.” Frontiers in Neuroscience 11 (1): 655. doi:10.3389/fnins.2017.00655. http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fnins.2017.00655.
AbstractSimilar flight control principles operate across insect and vertebrate fliers. These principles indicate that robust solutions have evolved to meet complex behavioral challenges. Following from studies of visual and cervical feedback control of flight in insects, we investigate the role of head stabilization in providing feedback cues for controlling turning flight in pigeons. Based on previous observations that the eyes of pigeons remain at relatively fixed orientations within the head during flight, we test potential sensory control inputs derived from head and body movements during 90° aerial turns. We observe that periods of angular head stabilization alternate with rapid head repositioning movements (head saccades), and confirm that control of head motion is decoupled from aerodynamic and inertial forces acting on the bird's continuously rotating body during turning flapping flight. Visual cues inferred from head saccades correlate with changes in flight trajectory; whereas the magnitude of neck bending predicts angular changes in body position. The control of head motion to stabilize a pigeon's gaze may therefore facilitate extraction of important motion cues, in addition to offering mechanisms for controlling body and wing movements. Strong similarities between the sensory flight control of birds and insects may also inspire novel designs of robust controllers for human-engineered autonomous aerial vehicles.
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