Wildlife & Wild Places

Memo to Rihanna: Falcons DO Close Their Eyes When They Sleep

Pop phenom Rihanna took to Twitter on June 23 to share her new ink: a tattoo of an Egyptian Falcon perched on her right ankle.

“Falcon: a light that shines in the darkness! Never close their eyes during sleep,” Rihanna tweeted with an image of the design.

Which begs the question: Do falcons really sleep with their eyes open?

Not according to John Parks, a professor of animal sciences at Cornell University and Director of the Cornell Raptor program.

“When they sleep, not only do they close their eyes, but they tuck their head under their wings, over their backs, so it’s somewhat concealed,” says Parks. They blink their eyes, too, when they’re awake. And the birds have a “nictitating membrane,” often called a third eyelid, that they can lower to protect their eyes and keep them moist when flying.

But Rihanna can take solace in the fact that falcons have singularly beautiful eyes, larger and darker than those of most other raptors. Falcon eyes have other noteworthy characteristics. They’re set comparatively farther forward in their heads, enabling them to put prey in their sights more easily. And they can see things that humans can’t. A falcon can view the full spectrum of colors much more clearly and from greater distances than we can. They can also perceive ultraviolet light. The American kestrel, for example, can see the ultraviolet wavelengths in the urine of mice and other small prey, allowing them to track a creature more effectively.

-Kastalia Medrano

  • channy

    wow, if it werent for Rihanna i wouldn’t have learnt anything about falcons. she is such a good role model.

  • […] Memo to Rihanna: Falcons DO Close Their Eyes When They Sleep Pop phenom Rihanna took to Twitter on June 23 to share her new ink: a tattoo of an Egyptian Falcon perched on her right ankle. “Falcon: a light that shines in … Read more on National Geographic […]

  • Ima Ryma

    The pop phenom, Rihanna, took
    To Twitter ’bout her ink to tweet,
    A falcon on her ankle look,
    And how she thought such bird ’twas neat
    That during sleep it kept its eyes
    Wide open as a light to shine.
    Rihanna surely meant no lies,
    But fact checkers did check her line
    With experts on the falcon bird.
    Its eyes do close when it does sleep.
    But will Rihanna get the word,
    Before she makes another peep?

    When her put foot in her mouth be,
    What does Rihanna’s falcon see?

  • Dinnyq

    I think it’s hilarious that Rihanna of all people inspired this article. Anyway her tattoo is HOT!! I love it.

    Ima Ryma, nice poem!

  • outlet

    I’m typically to running a blog and i actually appreciate your content. The article has really peaks my interest. I am going to bookmark your website and hold checking for brand new information.

About the Blog

Researchers, conservationists, and others share stories, insights and ideas about Our Changing Planet, Wildlife & Wild Spaces, and The Human Journey. More than 50,000 comments have been added to 10,000 posts. Explore the list alongside to dive deeper into some of the most popular categories of the National Geographic Society’s conversation platform Voices.

Opinions are those of the blogger and/or the blogger’s organization, and not necessarily those of the National Geographic Society. Posters of blogs and comments are required to observe National Geographic’s community rules and other terms of service.

Voices director: David Braun (dbraun@ngs.org)

Social Media