Battle of the Birds: Hunt

Eyewire, citizen science, birds, Battle of the Birds, ornithology, osprey
Photo by Doug Kelley on Unsplash

Raptors, also referred to as birds of prey, are perhaps the most formidable hunters in the entire avian class. They got their names for a reason! Cultures around the world have long stood in awe of these birds’ powerful talons, majestic wingspans, fierce beaks, and famously sharp eyes. Many raptors can see something miles below them with what you would consider 20/20 human vision!

One way that raptors can see such fine detail is because their eyes are so large compared to the size of their heads. This creates a relatively enormous surface area for their retinas, allowing for more visual data to be projected onto them. However, this isn’t the full story! Raptors also maximize the efficacy of their retinas through learned behavior: tilting their heads to change the angle of focus.

Why is this helpful? It’s because of unlike most other birds, humans, or other vertebrates, raptor retinas have two fovea instead of one. (And in fact, humans are some of the only mammals to have a fovea at all.) The fovea is an extraordinarily densely packed area of cone photoreceptors, centrally located as part of the macula. This is one reason that things in the center of your vision are the easiest to perceive. Besides having more cones than usual in their fovea, raptors’ double fovea are angled in different directions. The birds can then tilt their heads to observe objects in ways that are almost like swapping out the lens on a traditional camera, or changing between wide angle vs. regular view on your multi-camera phone. This helps raptors understand what they’re looking at with maximum clarity, regardless of whether they’re close up or far away!

If you feel like you have some eagle eyes yourself, let’s put them to the test on Eyewire with a Hunt. There are 12 mergers in the Hunt cell; you have 5.5 days and 24 guesses to locate them all, between midnight EST on 2/17 and noon EST on 2/22.

How to identify and report mergers

    1. Select Hunt cell from Change Cell menu. Stay in the overview.
    2. Type /debug into chat. This will reveal a special box with information about the cell (located above the “Start Playing” box).
    3. Use ALT+click to select the origin point of the merger you have identified. It is a good idea to zoom in close on the merger before you select it to get the most accurate coordinates.
    4. Find the coordinates of the merger’s origin in the cell information box. These are next to the word “center.”
    5. In the chat pm thehunt bot your coordinates. For example: /pm thehunt 5123 4321 5678.
    6. thehunt bot will let you know if you got it right or wrong and tell you how many guesses you have left.
    7. To check how many mergers you have found and to check what guesses you have submitted, type “/pm thehunt !list”; the bot will give you a list of all the coordinates you have guessed, and whether or not there was a merger at each set of coordinates. A + means there was a merger there, a means there was not a merger there.
    8. If you accidentally submit the same coordinate a second time, it does not count as two guesses.

Do not reveal your coordinates to other players. Do not do anything against the spirit of the Hunt. Anyone caught cheating will be automatically disqualified from the event and will not receive any points.

Proximity to merger start point is determined by number of voxels (1 voxel = approx. 1/250th of a cube’s width). Mergers are only counted as found if guessed within a distance of 250 voxels. Pieces of dust floating in space don’t count as mergers, so please don’t report them! We also do not count fused mergers that could not be removed during the Hunt prep process.

Bonus info is available in your in-game notifications. Good luck, and happy hunting!