Nervous System and Sense Organs

Relative to their body size, birds have large brains. The most highly developed areas of the bird's brain are those that control flight-related functions, such as the cerebellum, which coordinates movement. The cerebrum is also large. It controls complex behavior patterns, such as navigation, mating, nest building, and caring for the young. The large optic lobes receive and interpret visual stimuli.

Keen vision is necessary for taking off, landing, spotting landmarks, hunting, and feeding. Most birds have strong, color vision that aids them in finding food. In most species, the eyes are large and are located near the sides of the head, giving the bird a wide field of vision. Birds that have eyes located near the front of the head have better binocular vision, meaning they can perceive depth in the area where the visual fields of the two eyes overlap.

Hearing is important to songbirds and to nocturnal species, such as owls, which rely on sounds to help them locate their prey. Though birds lack external ears, owls have feathers around their ear openings that direct sound into the ear. The sense of smell is also strong in many birds.

DDT is a pesticide that was widely used on crops until the 1970s. DDT was banned in several countries because of the harm it was causing to birds. DDT causes some birds to produce thin egg shells, decreasing survival rates of the birds' offspring. The result was a significant drop in the populations of several species of raptors and pelicans. The thinning of the eggs was so significant that even the weight of an incubating parent could crush the eggs. With the banning of DDT in the United States, populations of the affected birds have increased.

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