Peripheral vision is weak in humans, especially at distinguishing color and shape. This is because the density of receptor cells on the retina is greatest at the center and lowest at the edges (see visual system for an explanation of these concepts). In addition, there are two types of receptor cells, rod cells and cone cells; rod cells are unable to distinguish color and are predominant at the periphery, while cone cells are concentrated mostly in the center of the retina (the macula).
Peripheral vision is good at detecting motion (a feature of rod cells), and is relatively strong at night or in the dark, when the lack of color cues and lighting makes cone cells far less useful. This makes it useful for avoiding predators, who tend to hunt at night and may attack suddenly from ambush.