Vision is an important sensory modality in birds, which can outperform other vertebrates in some visual abilities. However, sensitivity to achromatic contrasts – the ability to discern luminance difference between two objects or an object and its background – has been shown to be lower in birds compared with other vertebrates. We conducted a comparative study to evaluate the achromatic contrast sensitivity of 32 bird species from 12 orders using the optocollic reflex technique. We then performed an analysis to test for potential variability in contrast sensitivity depending on the corneal diameter to the axial length ratio, a proxy of the retinal image brightness. To account for potential influences of evolutionary relatedness, we included phylogeny in our analyses. We found a low achromatic contrast sensitivity for all avian species studied compared with other vertebrates (except small mammals), with high variability between species. This variability is partly related to phylogeny but appears to be independent of image brightness.

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