Bird Flight

Have you ever looked up at the sky and noticed a ‘V’ floating above your head? Well, not a flying alphabet but a flock of birds in that formation. Most people say that they are simply following their leader. But a flock of birds flying in a V shape is a little complicated and a lot more interesting than what people usually think.

What is Bird Flight?

Bird flight is defined as the mode of locomotion used by birds while taking off and flying. This is one of the most complex forms of locomotion in the animal kingdom. Flight helps birds in breeding, feeding and avoiding predators and during migration.

Why Do Birds Fly in a V

What Is The Mechanics Of Bird Flight?

Bird flight mechanism is similar to the mechanism of aircraft. In both the cases, aerodynamic forces are used based on lift and drag. Lift is defined as the force that is produced by the action of air flow in the wing and drag is defined as the force which is opposite to the direction of motion.

Why Do Birds Fly In a V Format?

You have probably seen that birds tend to fly in a V-Formation while migrating or making trips to find food. There is usually one bird at the front that leads the way and the other birds in the flock lines up at the back in right or left making a V shape in the sky. Birds usually fly in a V-Formation, J-Formation, Inverted V-Formation or Inverted J-Formation. These linear formations of birds are called as Skein Formation.

Skein Formation

The V-Formation is not only used by birds but also by military personnel during the time of war. The V-Formation has been used in wars from Spartans in the middle ages to modern day fighter jets and sea warfare. Birds, planes, and people all have similar reasons to follow this formation. Lining up in a V-formation gives each a clear view ahead of them. But a flock of birds flying in a V shape has a more impressing reason for this flight formation.

Scientist discovered that birds at the back of the V have slower heart rates and flapped less often. This definitely shows that birds benefit more from this flight formation. But the question now is, how do birds actually benefit from this?

V Formation

According to researchers, the birds mostly fly around a meter behind and a meter off to the side up front. Now when the bird in front flaps its wings a vortex of air directly behind is pushed downwards which is called downwash.


This creates a pressure difference. Due to this, the air below the wings is of higher pressure than the air above the wings. And as usual, the air moves from the region of higher pressure to the region of lower pressure to the upward direction which is called as upwash.


Now the bird situated in another bird’s upwash has to spend a lot less energy to fly since they are already being pushed upwards by the upwash of the bird in front of it.

The V-Formation of birds situates each member back and to the side directly in its neighbor’s upwash. The pressure difference increases as we go at the end of the V-Formation, so the birds at the back spend very less energy than birds up front. This formation also helps fighter aircraft to improve their fuel efficiency.

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