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It can be an aerial photograph, but also a drawing. Before manned flight was common, the term "bird's eye" was used to distinguish views drawn from direct observation at high locations (for example a mountain or tower), from those constructed from an imagined (bird's) perspectives. Bird's eye views as a genre have existed since classical times. The last great flourishing of them was in the mid-to-late 19th century, when bird's eye view prints were popular in the United States and Europe.
The terms aerial view and aerial viewpoint are also sometimes used synonymously with bird's-eye view. The term aerial view can refer to any view from a great height, even at a wide angle, as for example when looking sideways from an airplane window or from a mountain top. Overhead view is fairly synonymous with bird's-eye view but tends to imply a less lofty vantage point than the latter term. For example, in computer and video games, an "overhead view" of a character or situation often places the vantage point only a few feet above human height. See top-down perspective.
Recent technological and networking developments have made satellite images more accessible. Microsoft Bing Maps offers direct overhead satellite photos of the entire planet but also offers a feature named Bird's eye view in some locations. The Bird's Eye photos are angled at 40 degrees rather than being straight down. Resources such as Google Earth offer a complete bird's eye view of the planet. Satellite imaging programs and photos have been described as offering a viewer the opportunity to "fly over" and observe the world from this specific angle.
The view from the window of an aeroplane while going through a cloud
|Look up bird's-eye view in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.