Scientists have discovered that birds migrating in V-formation are struggling with stress, especially the bird, leading the flock. The birds have found a solution for the situation, and it seems that they are taking turns in leading the formation.
Experts from the University of Oxford, England, realized that after being at the lead of the flock for a period of time, the leader has to save his energy and switches places with the next bird, and after it moves behind the formation, waiting again for its turn. This was the first clear evidence that birds lead their V- formations by cooperating and taking turns, stated researchers.
In order to arrive to this conclusion, researchers have observed a flock of young Northern bald ibis, when migrating from Austria to Italy. Each bird was carrying a data logger device, which helped scientists, track down the position of each bird within the V-formation.
Some of the birds were noticed to have changed position often among the flock, as they split the time in taking lead in the formation and using the up draft from the flapping of the wings of the other birds, to save around 10% to 14% of the energy.
This particular, reciprocal cooperative action is grounded on a simple concept. The ibis birds are usually traveling in pairs, one of the bird is the leader and the other one is the wingman who takes advantage of the updraft created by the leader, explained the leader of the study, Bernard Voekl, from the Department of Zoology, of Oxford.
Even the pairs of birds, are taking turn in leading, and are able to count the exact amount of time they spend in both the leading and wingman position. This is a good strategy to help the birds save energy and be more efficient. According to Voekly, the ibis birds use this procedure, for larger formations or pairs and the taking turns process, is happening as it is the birds way of informing any potential freeloader who might believe they could benefit the migration flight without putting in any effort of leading the flock.
Birds choose to migrate in groups as flying alone poses a lot of threats. Studies have shown that 35% of the young birds die because of exhaustion during their first migration flight.
Researchers believe that these extreme conditions, have forced the birds to develop a sort of cooperative behavior that is supposed to help them save energy.
Image Source: The Hoops News
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