Gateway to the Classics: Handbook of Nature Study: Birds by Anna Botsford Comstock
Handbook of Nature Study: Birds by  Anna Botsford Comstock

Eyes and Ears of Birds

Teacher's Story

dropcap image HE hen's eyes are placed at the side of the head so that she cannot see the same object with both eyes at the same time, and thus she has the habit of looking at us first with one eye and then the other to be sure she sees correctly; also the position of the hen's eyes give her a command of her entire environment. All birds have much keener eyes than have we; and they can adjust their eyes for either near or far vision much more effectively than we can; the hawk, flying high in the air, can see the mouse on the ground.

There is a wide range of colors found in the eyes of birds; white, red, blue, yellow, brown, gray, pink, purple and green are found in the iris of different species. The hen's eye consists of a black pupil at the center, which must always be black in any eye, since it is a hole through which enters the image of the object. The iris of the hen's eye is yellow; there is apparently no upper lid but the lower lid comes up during the process of sleeping. When the bird is drowsy the little film lid comes out from the corner of the eye and spreads over it like a veil; just at the corner of our own eye, next the nose, is the remains of this film lid, although we cannot move it as the hen does.

The hearing of birds is very acute, although the ear is simply a hole in the side of the head in most cases, and is more or less covered with feathers. The hen's ear is like this in many varieties; but in others and in the roosters there are ornamental ear lobes.

Lesson IV

Eyes and Ears of Birds

Leading thought—The eyes and ears of birds are peculiar and very efficient.

Methods—The hen or chicken and the rooster should be observed for this lesson; notes may be made in the poultry yard or in the schoolroom when the birds are brought there for study.


1. Why does the hen turn her head first this side and that as she looks at you? Can she see an object with both eyes at once? Can she see well?

2. How many colors are there in a hen's eye? Describe the pupil and the iris.

3. Does the hen wink as we do? Has she any eyelids?

4. Can you see the film lid? Does it come from above or below or the inner or outer corner? When do you see this film lid?

5. Where are the hen's ears? How do they look? How can you tell where the rooster's ears are?

6. Do you think the hen can see and hear well?

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