Vibrations and Touch in Birds
Birds have contact and touch sensors on various parts of their bodies.
These include their feet, bills and tongues (i.e Woodpeckers).
This relates to the fact that it is these parts of their bodies which most often come into contact with the rest of the world. In some birds the tactile sensors are particularly well developed in the beak, allowing them to feed mostly by probing and feeling for prey. This is most evident in waders.
Birds also have special small feathers called bristles, which are situated all around the body and which help birds know where their feathers are.
Some birds also have a large numbers of vibration sensors called ‘Herbot’s corpuscles’ located in their legs.
These allow them to detect the approach of other birds or predators, along both the ground and on the limbs of trees.
Herbot’s corpuscles have also come to play a role in the nuptial displays of certain species of grouse. This ability to detect very faint vibrations has also been suggested as a reason why birds seem to know when an earthquake is about to happen – before we humans have any idea about it.
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