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The efficient rollercoaster flying style of the albatross

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One of the largest seabirds on the planet, the albatross is a powerhouse of flight that only comes back to land to breed. Their gliding capabilities are made possible by giant wings—up to 3.6 meters (12 feet) in length—and biological traits like the special sensory organs in their long nostrils. Like an aircraft’s pitot tube, an albatross’ tube-like nostrils help the expert flier measure changes in airspeed while it’s in the air.

This BBC Earth video showcases the massive bird’s rollercoaster style of flying—called dynamic soaring—which allows it to soar across great distances for hours without flapping its wings.

dynamic flying

“By exploiting the energy of the wind, they expend almost none of their own. This aerial efficiency is what makes such a big body capable of flying non-stop for over 16,000 kilometers without the need to set foot on dry land for years at a time.”

Learn more about the wandering albatross and the royal albatross at the Cornell Lab’s

soaring albatross

Then watch these related bird flight videos:
• The physics of why birds fly in V-formation
Why peregrine falcons are the fastest animals on earth
• Birds gliding through helium bubbles reveal an aerodynamic trick

Bonus biomimicry: How a kingfisher, an owl, & a penguin helped redesign Japan’s Shinkansen.

And this: Paper airplane aerodynamics explained by a world-record-setting designer.

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