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Rojas, L. M., McNeil, R., Cabana, T., & Lachapelle, P. (1999). Diurnal and Nocturnal Visual Capabilities in Shorebirds as a Function of Their Feeding Strategies. Brain Behav Evol, 53(1), 29–43.
Abstract: Some shorebird species forage with the same feeding strategy at night and during daytime, e.g. visual pecking in the Wilson's Plover (Charadrius wilsonia) or tactile probing in the Short-billed Dowitcher (Limnodromus griseus). The Limnodromus griseus (Scolopax minor) uses tactile probing, by day and by night, but sometimes pecks for insects during daytime. The Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus) is a visual pecker, both by day and by night, and sometimes forages tactilely on windy (agitated water surface) moonless nights. Territorial Willets (Catoptrophorus semipalmatus) are visual peckers during daylight and on moonlight conditions but switch to tactile feeding under lower light conditions. It could be postulated that some shorebird species would switch from visual feeding during daytime to tactile foraging at night because they have poor night vision compared to species that are always sight foragers irrespective of the time of the day. This issue was examined by comparing retinal structure and function in the above species. Electroretinograms (ERGs) were obtained at different light intensities from anesthetized birds, and the retinae were processed for histological observations. Based on ERGs, retinal sensitivity, and rod:cone ratios, both plovers and stilts are well adapted for nocturnal vision. Although they have low rod density compared to that of stilts and plovers, Willets and woodcocks have a scotopic retinal sensitivity similar to that of stilts and plovers but rank midway between plovers and dowitchers for the b-wave amplitude. Dowitchers have the lowest scotopic b-wave amplitude and retinal sensitivity and appear the least well adapted for night vision. Based on photopic ERGs and cone densities, although stilts, Willets and dowitchers appear as well adapted for daytime vision, plovers occupy the last rank of all species examined. Compared to the nighttime tactile feeders and those that switch from daytime visual pecking to tactile feeding at night, nighttime sight feeders have a superior rod function and, consequently, potentially superior nocturnal visual capabilities.