Why do birds fly in a V formation?

Have you ever seen a large flock of birds flying high in the sky? If you have, then you must have noticed that many of these groups fly in a shape that resembles the letter of the alphabet “V”. What is the rationale behind this formation?

V formation, also known as Echelon formation, is very often seen in birds that migrate or travel long distances. Indeed, it looks neat and stylish to the onlookers, but have you ever wondered what is the real reason behind this unique formation?

When a bird flies, the tips of both wings create a spinning vortex. A “spinning eddy” is nothing more than a swirling spiral of air moving around the tip of a bird’s wing.

Because of this, the air directly behind the bird is pushed down, while the air behind this and to the sides is pushed up. This creates certain zones, known as “upwash” zones and “downwash” zones, where the airflow is either up or down.

Who is the leader in front?

Who is the leader in front

This formation will be so effective when the leader in front plays his role. Who is usually the leader of this group of birds so that this V-shaped formation achieves its purpose?

Not a single bird is a permanent leader. These birds take turns being in front.

Bernhard Voelkl and his team from Oxford University’s zoology department conducted an amazing study to learn more about flight behavior and they found that a bird spends almost 32% of its time flying behind other birds, and the same amount of time being the leader of the flight formation.

Another interesting study was done by a team led by Henri Weimerskirch in 2001. He installed heart rate monitors on birds and found that birds at the back of the V formation had a slower heart rate than those at the front, and flapped less. frequency.

Another question that has yet to be resolved is how do these birds learn to do this formation. Some scientists hypothesize that V-formation flight may be learned from older birds and from each other. It is probably one that every bird can easily learn.

For those who are used to seeing the formation of fighter jets in the air (such as during the Independence Day celebrations), you must have seen the same formation used.

This formation is known as “V” Formation or “Vic” Formation in military circles around the world. This formation is also quite common in air shows, but the basis behind it was completely inspired by the natural world – from a group of birds that have been doing it for thousands of years!

Accuracy of flapping wings

Accuracy of flapping wings

If a bird flies in this zone, it gets a free lift from the air and thus gets a lot of air support without exerting much of its own effort. This is why the bird that follows the bird in front may not need to flap their wings as much as the bird that is the leader in front because they can just glide to stay in the air.

The timing at which the trailing birds flap their wings is crucial to this whole process. When the bird flying ahead flaps its wings, the upward force created by its wings also moves up and down.

Therefore, the bird behind this bird has to adjust its own flap timing to match the free-lift moving zone coming off the wing of the bird flying ahead. This way, the birds get the maximum benefit (in terms of reduced effort) from this pattern.

Advantages of V . formation

Advantages of V . formation

Scientists believe that the V-shaped formation used by birds during migration has two important purposes and advantages:

First, it saves them energy. Each bird flies slightly above the bird in front of it, resulting in reduced wind resistance. The birds take turns being in front, moving back when they are tired. This way, they can fly for a long time before they must stop to rest.

One study found that pelicans flying alone flap their wings more often and have higher heart rates than those flying singly in this V formation. It follows that birds flying in this formation glide more often and use less energy.

A second benefit to this V formation is that it is easy to keep track of each bird in the group. Flying in this formation can help with communication and coordination in groups. Fighter jet pilots often use this formation for the same reason.

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