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Scientists Explain Mystery Behind Birds Flying In a V Formation

Update Date: Jan 17, 2014 11:20 AM EST

While flying, migrating birds carefully position their wingtips in V-formation to improve the flock's aerodynamics and conserve energy, according to a new study. 

The study conducted by Royal Veterinary College concluded that birds fly in optimal position by gaining lift from the bird in the front while being close to wingtip. 

"The distinctive V-formation of bird flocks has long intrigued researchers and continues to attract both scientific and popular attention, however a definitive account of the aerodynamic implications of these formations has remained elusive until now," said lead researcher Steve Portugal of the Royal Veterinary College, University of London in a press release.

"The intricate mechanisms involved in V-formation flight indicate remarkable awareness and ability of birds to respond to the wingpath of nearby flock-mates," he said. "Birds in V-formation seem to have developed complex phasing strategies to cope with the dynamic wakes produced by flapping wings."

Previously, a study on pelicans had hinted that when pelicans flew in formation, their heart rate dropped. 

The devices used in the study contained GPS and accelerometers but unfortunately due to technical constraints, they were not able to wirelessly transmit data. Scientists trained Northern bald ibis bird for the job. 

The findings of the study has been published in the journal Nature.

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