Birds of a feather flock together! Research shows that some birds that fly together in large colonies have evolved bright feathers under their wings to avoid mid-air collisions.
- Birds with brightly colored feathers may have developed them to avoid mid-air collisions.
- This is the result of a new study that compared the underwing colors of 1,780 species.
- Birds that fly in large colonies most often have bright colors under their wings.
- Experts said this is because they have many other birds to avoid while in the air.
Experts believe that birds with brightly colored feathers under their wings may have developed them to avoid mid-air collisions.
The researchers compared determined the coloration of the underwings of 1780 species and found that larger birds, as well as those that gather in large colonies, most often have colorful contrasting feathers.
The researchers think this is because larger birds can’t crouch and dodge as easily, while those living in colonies have many more feathered friends to avoid in the air.
They believe that this signaling function allows large birds nesting in colonies to track the movements of nearby individuals, thereby reducing the risk of collision and, in turn, the chances of death or injury.
Theory: Birds with brightly colored feathers under their wings may have developed them to avoid mid-air collisions, experts say.
WHY MIGRATING BIRDS DISCOVERED LIGHTER FEATHERS
According to a separate study, migratory birds have evolved to have lighter colored feathers that help keep them cool while flying long distances.
Birds such as gerbils and waders travel thousands of miles each year in search of the best ecological conditions and habitats to feed, breed and raise their young.
During these difficult journeys, they are often exposed to extreme weather conditions and risk overheating if they are exposed to direct sunlight for too long.
However, studies of the Institute of Ornithology. Max Planck’s Germany shows that many species of migratory birds have evolved pale plumage, which absorbs less heat than dark feathers.
This means that birds are less prone to overheating when exposed to the sun for long periods of time.
Read more here.
The study was conducted by researchers from Sun Yat-sen University in China.
“Collisions between fast moving objects often cause severe damage, but the collision avoidance mechanisms of fast moving animals remain poorly understood,” they wrote in their paper.
“In particular, birds can fly quickly and often in large groups, which raises the question of how individuals avoid potentially lethal collisions in flight.”
The researchers said that since larger species are less agile than smaller ones, and because those flying in large colonies have less margin for error, it would make sense that these birds evolved colorful underwings to minimize the chance of collision. .
“The risk of collision is particularly high for large and colonially breeding species,” the researchers wrote.
“Heavier species, such as the California condor, great white pelican, and American crane, have less maneuverability, which limits their ability to make sharp and fast turns to avoid mid-flight collisions.
“These results also show that smaller species, such as songbirds, are better at avoiding collisions in general or relying on other mechanisms.”
In addition to helping birds in large colonies avoid collisions with each other, the evolution of brightly contrasting lower wings may have another benefit.
“Some predators often attack individuals in colonies,” experts say.
“For example, African fish eagles or baboons regularly try to kill flamingos.
Experts compared underwing coloration of 1,780 species and found that larger birds, as well as those that gather in large colonies, most often have colorful feathers.
“When escaping, individuals display contrasting black and pink ventral wing patches that can signal the presence of a predator to neighbors, increase confusion, and reduce the number of collisions during escape.”
They concluded, “The contrasting patterns of the ventral wings of large birds have a hitherto overlooked signaling function that allows humans to track the movements of nearby individuals, thereby reducing the risk of collision.”
“Future experimental studies will provide a better understanding of the mechanisms underlying collision avoidance in gregarious, fast-moving birds and other animals.”
Research published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.
WHY DO MIGRATING BIRDS FLY IN A V-SHAPED FORMATION?
Birds fly in a V-shape, which helps them fly more efficiently while staying in the air while expending as little energy as possible.
Scientists learned the secrets of migratory bird aviation after attaching tiny recorders to a flock of 14 northern bald ibis, which not only tracked their position and speed via satellite, but also measured their every beat of their wings.
The 14 birds used in the study were hand-reared at the Vienna Zoo in Austria by the Waldrappteam, an Austrian conservation group that reintroduces northern bald ibes to Europe.
Birds fly in a V-shape, which helps them fly more efficiently by staying in the air and using as little energy as possible (file image)
The birds were studied as they flew with the microlight on their migration route from Austria to their winter home in Tuscany, Italy.
Lead researcher Dr Steve Portugal of the Royal Veterinary College London University said: “The distinctive V-shape of bird flocks has long intrigued researchers and continues to attract both scientific and popular attention, but a definitive description of the aerodynamic implications of these formations has remained elusive to this day.
“The complex mechanisms involved in V-shape flight indicate a remarkable awareness and ability of birds to respond to the movement of the wings of nearby flock mates. V-shaped birds seem to have developed complex phasing strategies to deal with the dynamic trails created by their wing beats.”
The scientists found that when flying in a V-shape, the birds’ wingbeats were roughly “in-phase,” meaning all wingtips followed roughly the same path.
This helped each bird gain additional lift from the rising wave of its neighbor ahead.
Random changes in position in the formation meant that sometimes the birds flew straight one after the other.
When this happened, the birds changed their wingbeats to be out of phase so they wouldn’t be caught by the downdraft.