What is a Malar stripe?

What is a Malar stripe?

If you’ve been trying to identify a particular bird that you spotted in the field, you may have come across the malar stripe in the description. The malar stripe is a dark stripe that runs beneath the eyes and along the cheekbone of some birds. The word malar actually means cheekbone which is how this stripe got its name.

There is some confusion about this malar stripe with some authorities no longer using the term malar and opting for the term “lateral throat stripe” instead. But why do some birds have a malar stripe whilst others don’t?

To find out more keep reading.

What Does The Malar Stripe Do?

The black stripe that is called the malar stripe does have a practical purpose which is to absorb sunlight. You see all of the birds that are found with a malar stripe are birds that hunt in regions of high sunlight.

If they never had that dark stripe, they would be far less successful in catching prey. In fact a recent scientific study discovered that the darker the malar stripe, the more the bird was likely to live in an area with higher solar radiation.

How Do Malar Stripes Help Birds hunt?

It’s well known that when sunlight hits a white surface it bounces back. This means if the birds that live and hunt in areas of high solar radiation had a lighter malar stripe, they would become dazzled and less able to see and subsequently catch their prey.

Black absorbs light which is why birds with a dark malar stripe are able to hunt, track and capture their prey even on the sunniest of days. Many Athletes have learned this trick which is why you can often see them with black grease below their eyes.

The black grease absorbs the bright light created by the stadium lights allowing them to see the ball clearer. The dark bands absorb the light and improve contrast sensitivity.

In birds this means the prey can be seen in exceedingly bright sunlight even when moving at high speed.

Which Birds Have Malar Stripes?

Malar stripes are found on many birds of prey. Typically falcons and kestrels, including;

  • Peregrine Falcon
  • Common Kestrel
  • Gyrfalcon
  • American Kestrel
  • Merlin
  • Eurasian Hobby
  • Lanner Falcon
  • Amur Falcon
  • Prairie Falcon
  • Brown Falcon

Falcons are found all over the world but those that live in areas with greater solar radiation will have darker malar stripes than those that live in areas with less intense solar radiation.

Are Malar Stripes Unique To Birds?

You could be thinking that it’s only birds that have these hunting aids. However, that’s not the case,other examples in the animal kingdom include;

  • Cheetah
  • Black Footed ferret
  • Red Pandas
  • Racoon

In every case, the animal in question either lives in an area of intensely bright sunlight, or hunts at dusk or dawn. These malar stripes are always found in animals and birds that rely on hunting for their survival.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Malar on a bird?

The word malar means cheek and the malar stripe on a bird is the stripe that runs from the beak down across the cheek or jaw.

What is the Malar stripe on a falcon?

The malar stripe on a falcon is the dark marking that runs down from the corner of the eyes and down their jaw. This dark stripe reduces the glare from the sun and aids in allowing the bird to hunt, track and catch its prey.

What is the alternative name for the malar stripe?

The malar stripe is the dark stripe that runs from a bird’s jaw from the corner of the eye. It is also known as the lateral throat stripe or the submustachial stripe.