And God Created ... The Hawk's Eyes

David Everson

“Doth the eagle mount up at thy command, and make her nest on high? She dwelleth and abideth on the rock, upon the crag of the rock, and the strong place. From thence she seeketh the prey, and her eyes behold afar off.”  - Job 39:27-29

  “… [A]nd her eyes behold afar off ...” is an amazing revelation on the part of the Almighty Creator. Indeed, it is one of which the exact truth was not to be known for several thousand years – in fact, just the past few years. Sure, it was possible for man to observe the eagle, hawk, and falcon and see that they could spot prey from long distances. The exact explanation of this ability is not totally understood even in the world where modern methods of scientific observation are possible. The visual abilities of many of the birds are nothing short of amazing. Let us examine a little of the eyes of birds to, again, marvel at the majesty of the Creator.

Vision is one of the senses in which humans have great interest. How does it work? How do we interpret the visual signals that are received by our eyes and convert them into images in our brains? As we observe animals such as birds, we wonder what they see and how they see it. 

Modern science has revealed some things that we can learn about the birds. We can see that the size of the bird’s eyes, when compared to the rest of the head, is quite large. The eyes of many of the predatory birds are set in the front of the head. This gives them binocular vision, like ours, that allows for depth of field perception. This is necessary for them to be able to gauge the location of their prey and to catch it as they fly. Those birds, whose eyes are set on the sides of their heads, are able to watch for predators much better, but they are limited in how well they can see and catch their food that is in front of them. It is thought that they might make up for this by looking at the food with only one eye and by bobbing their heads and getting multiple images that they use to form an accurate image of its location.

The ability of birds of prey to see “afar off” is caused by God’s creating them with visual strength that would be about equal to 20/2 vision in man. The birds have a structure in their eyes called the pecten that is found in very few animal eyes that we know. The exact function of this structure is unclear but is probably involved in the producing of vision that is about eight times stronger than man’s.

The raptors also have two areas of the eyes called the fovea. This is the area where the sharpest vision occurs in all animals. This area is filled with cones, which are the visual cells that see colors. These birds can have up to 120,000 cones per square millimeter, whereas humans have about 10,000 in the same area. With two of these areas packed with millions and millions of cones, they see things that humans can only imagine from vast distances.

So, from “afar off” the eagle can see its prey and then capture it without man’s understanding because it is one of God’s wonderful works. 

Let us never cease to be amazed by our Creator. –Rt. 1 Box 116A, Belington, WV 26250.

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