Why Do Birds Fly in a V Formation?

February 14, 2014 in Aerowood Animal Hospital

You often see a flock of birds take flight and form a V shape but have you ever wondered why? In a recent study, researchers confirm that the V formation is an energy-saving way for birds to travel because of the upward-moving air, better known as “upwash”, generated by the bird in front.

During the study, which is published in the journal Nature, scientists from the Royal Veterinary College placed data loggers on an entire flock of birds that were being trained to migrate by following a microlight. The data shows that the birds are boosted by the bird in front of them by remaining close to its wingtip. This makes the V shape the most advantageous flying position. The results also illustrate that the birds often changed position and altered the timing of their wing beats to allow each member of the flock to conserve energy.

What a beautiful and natural phenomenon that exhibits the intelligence of birds.

Source: Portugal S, Hubel T, Fritz J, et al. Upwash exploitation and downwash avoidance by flap phasing in ibis formation flight. Nature, 2014 Jan; 505: 399-402.

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