Navigation Links
Soaring is better than flapping

This release is available in German.

Large birds, such as storks, save energy on the flight to their wintering grounds by soaring through the air on thermal currents. Until now, however, we knew nothing about the flight patterns of small migrating songbirds, such as whether they flap their wings or soar and whether these styles of flight allow them to save energy. Now, a team of scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Radolfzell, Ben-Gurion-University of the Negev, and Hebrew University of Jerusalem have tracked the movement of European bee-eaters (Merops apiaster) along the Africa-Eurasia migration flyway with the help of tiny radio transmitters. Analysing measurements of heart rate, flight speed and flying style, they found out that these small birds also soars. Further, they found that the birds fly just as quickly when soaring as when flapping their wings, while using as little energy as it takes to sit in its nest. (Published in PloS One 11, November 2010)

When we think of birds gliding majestically through the sky without beating their wings, we imagine large species like storks or hawks searching silently for prey. The flight patterns of large birds have been well studied. Ornithologists know how quickly and how far they fly, and how often they flap or soar while in flight. However, much less is known about these patterns in smaller birds. Until recently, it was thought that small birds were not able to glide and save energy in the same way, due to their smaller musculature and wings. Gliding would reduce the flight speed, so it was assumed.

In a recently published study, scientists at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, along with Martin Wikelski, director of the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Radolfzell, determined for the first time the energy use of small songbirds in the wild. The researchers attached tiny radio transmitters onto the backs of European bee-eaters (Merops apiaster) caught in Israel to record their wing beat frequency, heart rate and flight speed. In order to estimate the birds' energy use, they determined in the laboratory that the birds' heart rate increased with oxygen consumption, and therefore the heart rate measurements indicate the birds' energy use while flying.

"Analysing the data, we were surprised to see that bee-eaters often switch between soaring and flapping, and also that the frequency of heart beats while gliding was only as half what it was while flapping," says Martin Wikelski. "The birds needed the same amount of energy while soaring or gliding as they did when they were resting on a branch or in a nest." In contrast, previous studies with larger birds showed that energy use was at least 30 percent higher when the birds were gliding than when they were resting. Thus, soaring and gliding flight means a considerably higher savings of energy for small migrating birds than for larger species. In addition, the scientists did not find any loss of flight speed when birds were gliding.

The results of this study not only provide an answer to the question of whether small migrating birds can soar during their long journey, but also show that they travel just as fast while doing so and use less energy.


Contact: Dr. Martin Wikelski

Related biology news :

1. Dino-not-so-soaring
2. World fertilizer prices drop dramatically after soaring to all-time highs
3. Illinois study: Ginseng just got better -- not as bitter
4. Conference goals include better surgery and better surgeons
5. Gene find could lead to healthier food, better biofuel production
6. Never-smokers fare far better than smokers after radiation therapy for head and neck cancer
7. Technology developed at Queens University allows medical workers to better assess brain injuries
8. Improving soil for better lawns and gardens
9. Plants and animals under stress may provide the key to better stock market predictions
10. Mathematical model may result in better environment measures for the Baltic
11. Mice that smell light could help us better understand olfaction
Post Your Comments:
Related Image:
Soaring is better than flapping
(Date:11/2/2015)... PARK, Calif. , Nov. 2, 2015  SRI ... $9 million to provide preclinical development services to the ... the contract, SRI will provide scientific expertise, modern testing ... wide variety of preclinical pharmacology and toxicology studies to ... --> The PREVENT Cancer Drug Development ...
(Date:10/29/2015)... 29, 2015 Daon, a global leader in ... released a new version of its IdentityX Platform ... North America have already installed IdentityX v4.0 ... a FIDO UAF certified server component as ... activate FIDO features. These customers include some of the ...
(Date:10/29/2015)... , October 29, 2015 ... biometric authentication company focused on the growing mobile ... wallet announces that StackCommerce, a leading marketplace to ... featuring the Wocket® smart wallet on StackSocial for ... ) ("NXT-ID" or the "Company"), a biometric authentication ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/24/2015)... CITY , Nov. 24, 2015 /PRNewswire/ - ... "Company") announced today that the remaining 11,000 post-share ... Share Purchase Warrants (the "Series B Warrants") subject ... were exercised on November 23, 2015, which will ... Shares.  After giving effect to the issuance of ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... ... , ... InSphero AG, the leading supplier of easy-to-use solutions for production, culture, ... serve as Chief Operating Officer. , Having joined InSphero in November 2013 ... was promoted to Head of InSphero Diagnostics in 2014. There she has built ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... Capricor Therapeutics, Inc. (NASDAQ: ... development and commercialization of first-in-class therapeutics, today announced that ... scheduled to present at the 2015 Piper Jaffray Healthcare ... at The Lotte New York Palace Hotel in ... . --> . ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... MUNICH and NEW YORK , ... irst investment by Bristol-Myers Squibb in a ... Bristol-Myers Squibb Company in which the companies ... products in immuno-oncology and other areas of unmet medical need. ... Squibb in LSP 5, the latest LSP fund. This is ...
Breaking Biology Technology: