Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by cindy. cindy Wonders, “why do birds fly in v formation” Thanks for WONDERing with us, cindy!
Look up at the sky. Do you see anything interesting? Do you see any familiar shapes in the clouds? Are there any airplanes or kites. If you’re lucky, there may even be a “V” soaring above your head. No, not a flying alphabet — a flock of birds in formation!
While not all birds migrate, most do. These are called “migratory birds.” The reasons birds migrate vary but typically involve food or weather.
In the northern hemisphere, many birds migrate south during the winter months when the weather becomes too cold for them to survive in their northern habitats. Once spring arrives, the birds return to their homes.
Do you ever travel with your family? People often travel together for vacations or just trips to the store. Others prefer to travel alone. Birds are the same way! Some birds migrate alone, others travel in pairs, and many move in large flocks.
Song birds often migrate in swarms, while larger birds, such as geese, migrate in formation. Many times this migration takes the form of the letter V. The reason these birds prefer to fly in a V shape has puzzled researchers for many years. There are two theories to explain the V-shaped formation.
The most accepted theory is that the formation of a flock influences aerodynamics. That means the birds take this formation because it makes it easier for them to fly. As the birds flap their wings, the air flowing off their wingtips gives birds in the back of the V an extra lift. This reduces the amount of energy the birds need to fly. That’s pretty helpful, considering how far these birds fly.
As you can imagine, flying at the front of the V is more difficult than flying at the back. Over the course of the migration, birds take turns leading the front of the V so no one bird gets too tired. When a bird has tired of leading, it falls to the rear of the V. It can regain its energy with the help of the rest of the flock. This process helps birds fly long distances without needing to rest.
The second theory suggests flying in a V offers each bird a better line of sight for each bird as the flock flies. This makes it easier for the birds to keep track of each member of the flock. Groups of fighter pilots often arrange their planes in V formation for the same reason.
The next time you’re outside, see if you can find a “V” in the sky! Then, watch it. Do you see the birds taking turns at the front? How long does it take for the birds at the front to grow tired and move to the back? You can learn a lot about animals by just watching them!
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