A love story of migrating birds - V-formation flights of Northern Bald IbisesDaniel McCarthy (Author) Published Date : Feb 05, 2015 05:20 IST
Amidst tough migrating flights, Northern bald ibises take turns at the most difficult task in the course of their voyage which is being the leader of their V-shaped structure, as exposed in a new study. This research shows new perspective on how these aviators team up to survive such long and grueling flights
Research Lead author Bernhard Voelkl, a biologist at the University of Oxford, said that we have been awestruck by this V-formation flight for thousands of years, keeping in mind the how the ancient Egyptians and Greeks have studied this wondrous phenomenon. The reason behind this phenomenon was not answered until recently.
I ve been waiting for 40 years for someone to solve this problem, said Robert Trivers, an evolutionary biologist at Rutgers University not involved in the research program. V-formations are very, very obvious. They cannot be accidental and they cannot be trivial, because the birds do them. They do them all the time.
Voelkl and his associates have published a piece stating that when flying in a V-formation these species gets a bit more elevation from the wake of the bird in front of them which helps in saving a bit of energy and in the long ride awaiting them, this cutback can be a lifesaver.
This situation is great for the rest of the flock but the one in the front line works very hard without any assistance to sustain the rhythm. The question remains how is it decided who takes the turns in being the leader of the team.
To figure out the answer, the scientists observed with Waldrappteam, the Austrian conservation group striving to get the gravely endangered birds once known as Geronticus eremita, back from its brink.
The team nurtured the ibis from an early age in confined care at the Salzburg Zoo, Austria and makes a ultralight aircraft to guide them on their first ever migration to Italy.
The activity and motion of this flock of 14 birds were monitored as the birds were equipped with GPS. The pattern they maintained was that they would keep on rotating with a time span of less than a minute to be spent at the vertex of the V before the position is taken by the next one in the formation.
Hourly on an average each bird switches with its neighboring one about 57 times. A typical flight is of 8 hours of duration each and the changeover is almost flawlessly done with an executive time of about a second or so. In this process each bird has an identical amount of effort to put through in the entire flight. At times the birds would break up their routine, shuffle the pattern radically.
All the birds contribute almost equally to the investment in leading the flock, Voelkl said. This was surprising to us.
For young birds such strenuous flight can be deadly and thus the mortality rate can rise up to 30% yet the question remains why the birds are so helpful and trick the other birds into doing their share of the job
This kind of cooperation amongst birds is a matter of great curiosity for scientists and they observed that there is no social stigma amongst them, nor do they care if they are related.
This sort of cooperative behavior is of great interest to scientists. Often, it s found that animals will help other animals out, even if it isn t in their self-interest, if they re related to that animal. It means that they re helping another creature carrying at least some of their shared genes to survive and pass them on to the next generation as stated by researchers.
The study obviously reveals more about the V-formation flight than ever before and the reason behind their selfless behavior towards the other but furthermore studies will help attain the heart rates and measurement of the amount of energy that these birds save due to this structured flight.
A love story of migrating birds - V-formation flights of Northern Bald Ibises