Why do birds often fly in a “V” shape formation? Researchers at the UK’s Royal Veterinary College have gathered data from individual ibises in a migratory flock to study why this pattern is so popular: their relative position and wing flap timing gives them extra lift from the upward motion of air created by the bird ahead of them.
In 2011, as part of a reintroduction programme, captive-bred ibises following an ultralight aircraft to their wintering grounds arranged themselves in the shape of a V. Data loggers on their backs captured every position and wing flap, yielding the most compelling experimental evidence yet that birds exploit the aerodynamics of the familiar formation to conserve energy.
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