Woodcock see more clearly than some MPs

We received this rather fuzzy image of a Woodcock in a garden in London from a subscriber. What a great bird to see in your garden! 

At first glance, it looks almost as if the bird has two eyes on the side of its head but that is because the bird moved and there is a double image.

But it did take us back to the recent Woodcock debate in Parliament where Conservative MP, Sir Bill Wiggin, said;

I am very fond of woodcock. They are the only birds with binocular vision, which means that when they fly, they can see where they are going, which is why they have an extraordinary flight pattern, particularly in the evening as the light fades.


Any Woodcock reading through the debate would be surprised to hear that other birds don’t have binocular vision and that he or she was unique. The truth is very different – see here.  Most birds have some binocular vision – especially predatory species. Meet an eagle face-to-face and it will be looking back at you with both eyes. The same is true for owls, ostriches and many other species.

But birds do, generally, have their eyes on the sides of their heads which means that they have large areas of monocular vision and rather smaller areas of binocular vision.  

Woodcock have very large visual fields – they can see around them all 360 degrees with a 5 degree binocular field in front of them and another similar-sized binocular field directly behind them. What must that feel like? But it’s almost the opposite of what Sir Bill Wiggin said – Woodcock actually have small binocular fields – and yet they manage to fly around perfectly adequately. They spend so much of their time sitting on the ground, not moving, that they need to have eyes in the backs of their heads to see whether a predator is approaching. We reckon they can see more clearly than many MPs.

Here ‘s a lovely Woodcock from Ronan Jackson – the eyes have it!

Woodcock by Ronan Jackson, aged 11 from Scotland – a keen Woodcock enthusiast