- The Washington Times - Friday, January 17, 2014

Scientists think they’ve uncovered a mystery that’s baffled bird watchers for centuries – the reasons behind the feathered friends’ V-formation flight pattern.

The India Times reported that researchers with the University of London’s Royal Veterinary College found the birds fly the formation because it’s the most “aerodynamically optimum position.” It’s the one that lets them time their wings together — the one that lets each member of the formation get the “good air” and ride off the breeze created from the flyer in front.

Researchers also found that birds flap their wings to a specific beat in order to capitalize on updrafts and minimize the intensity of downdrafts, The Indian Times reported. Scientists originally thought birds weren’t capable of such intricate planning and strategy — but new information shows otherwise.

“The distinctive V-formation of bird flocks has long intrigued researchers and continues to attract both scientific and popular attention. However, a definitive account of the aerodynamic implications of these formations has remained elusive until now,” said Steven Portugal, lead researcher at the Royal Veterinary College, in The India Times.

But now scientists believe “birds in V formation seem to have developed complex phasing strategies to cope with the dynamic wakes produced by flapping wings,” Portugal said, in the report.


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