A bird's- and frog's-eye view

LAST week a friend of mine came out of the optometrist's office looking as if he had just spent 10 days on a raft. ``I sure haven't got the eyes of an eagle anymore,'' he said. Of course, he never did have the eyes of an eagle. Birds, in general, have better eyes than people. On the other hand, people see better than frogs, which should be some consolation.

Frogs, according to my haphazard research, see clearly for only a few inches, which is about the distance for zapping a bug with its tongue. When I was a boy I had a frog for a pet, but it wasn't what you'd call a close relationship. Spoticus was never able to recognize me from anyone else. He could tell I wasn't a fly, but never showed any real affection when I visited him in his screened habitat. He just blinked his big, soporific eyes.

Although Spoticus finally went off one day on his own when someone left the screen open, I still think sightwise he was hit or miss. When we would play together he would often crash into something like a cereal box at the end of a three-foot jump.

Compared with that of frogs and people, the vision of birds is truly amazing. The sharp eagle vision is well known, but I am also impressed with pelicans. We have a pelican friend that visits us once in a while and I know he sees pretty well. Maybe not as well as an osprey, but who wants to quibble?

This pelican (whom we named Rollo) can recognize my wife in the backyard when flying over with a flock of his friends. He will leave the others and circle down to land at my wife's feet for a pat on the head.

Now, I could never tell which pelican was which while they were flying overhead, so it is quite evident to me that birds see better than I do. Still, I'm happy the way things are. I wouldn't want to spend my life diving from 300 feet, smacking the water face-first, just to try to catch a fish in my mouth.

It might prove I had remarkable eyesight, but I am perfectly content to see better than frogs.

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