Formation Flying

The balance between energy intake and energy expended is critical for survival. Birds have evolved a number of collaborative behaviors to minimize individual energy expenditure and to maximize energy intake. Formation flying is the most spectacular of these strategies. The vortex of swirling air that is shed by a bird during flapping flight includes a […]


Birds in a flock, like the Starlings above, sometimes move together as if connected by invisible threads. Scientists have found that a few simple rules can explain apparently complex flocking behavior. The most famous flocking model, shown diagrammatically below, is known as Boids. This model requires each member of the flock to act based on […]

Flying Low

Most cormorants fly low over the water with their wingtips almost touching the surface at the end of the downstroke. They are taking advantage of “ground effect” – something that airplane pilots also have to account for. Just after takeoff, an airplane seems to gain altitude easily. But by the time the plane is a […]


The Arctic Tern (above) is the long distance champion of migration among all animals. It breeds in Greenland during the long summer days, flies south to Antarctica in the fall, and back to Greenland in time for spring. This is a round trip of about 50,000 miles (80,467 km). Migration allows birds to nest in […]