The fellowship of the wing: Pigeons flap faster to fly together

phys.org | 6/4/2019 | Staff
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New research publishing June 18 in the open-access journal, PLOS Biology, led by Dr. Lucy Taylor from the University of Oxford's Department of Zoology now reveals that homing pigeons fit in one extra wingbeat per second when flying in pairs compared to flying solo.

Birds that fly in 'V'-formations, such as geese, are able to conserve energy by flying in aerodynamically optimal positions. By contrast, in species that don't fly in formation, such as homing pigeons, the costs and benefits of flocking have been less well understood.

Research - Bird - Energy - Solo - Results

The research indicates that flying with another bird requires more energy compared to flying solo. 'The results of this study were completely unexpected. Energy is the currency of life so it's astonishing that the birds are prepared to pay a substantial energetic cost to fly together," said lead-author, Dr. Lucy Taylor.

The team used high frequency GPS and accelerometer bio-loggers to measure how pigeons changed their wingbeat patterns when flying in pairs compared to flying solo. The accelerometers act much like fitness trackers but, instead of measuring steps, the researchers measure wingbeats. 'The increase in wingbeat frequency is equivalent to Usain Bolt running the 100m sprint at his usual speed, whilst fitting in nearly one...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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