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September 9 2012

Can Birds Tell If We Look Them in the Eye?


In humans, the eyes are said to be the ‘window to the soul’, conveying much about a person’s emotions and intentions. New research demonstrates for the first time that birds also respond to a human’s gaze.

Predators tend to look at their prey when they attack, so direct eye-gaze can predict imminent danger. Julia Carter, a graduate student at the University of Bristol, and her colleagues, set up experiments that showed starlings will keep away from their food dish if a human is looking at it. However, if the person is just as close, but their eyes are turned away, the birds resumed feeding earlier and consumed more food overall.

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