A brand new find out about sheds mild on simply how successfully the sector’s greatest hovering chicken rides air currents to stick aloft for hours with out flapping its wings.
The Andean condor has a wingspan stretching to 3 metres and weighs as much as 15 kilograms, making it the heaviest hovering chicken alive lately.
For the primary time, a workforce of scientists strapped recording apparatus they referred to as “daily diaries” to 8 condors in South America’s Patagonia area to document each and every wingbeat over greater than 250 hours of flight time.
Incredibly, the birds spent only one in keeping with cent in their time aloft flapping their wings, most commonly all through takeoff. One chicken flew greater than 5 hours, protecting greater than 160 kilometres, with out flapping its wings.
“Condors are expert pilots — but we just hadn’t expected they would be quite so expert,” mentioned Emily Shepard, a find out about co-author and biologist at Swansea University in Wales.
The effects have been revealed Monday within the magazine Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
“The finding that they basically almost never beat their wings and just soar is mind-blowing,” mentioned David Lentink, knowledgeable in chicken flight at Stanford University, who was once no longer concerned within the analysis.
To birds, the sky isn’t empty, however a panorama of invisible options — wind gusts, currents of heat emerging air, and streams of air driven upward via floor options reminiscent of mountains.
Learning to trip air currents permits some birds to commute lengthy distances whilst minimizing the exertion of thrashing their wings.
Scientists who find out about flying animals typically believe two kinds of flight: flapping flight and hovering flight. The distinction will also be in comparison to peddling a bicycle uphill, as opposed to coasting downhill, mentioned Bret Tobalske, a chicken flight knowledgeable on the University of Montana, who was once no longer concerned within the find out about.
Past research have proven that storks and osprey flap for 17 in keeping with cent and 25 in keeping with cent in their overland migratory flights, respectively.
The Andean condor’s excessive ability at hovering is very important for its scavenger way of life, which calls for hours an afternoon of circling top mountains in search of a meal of carrion, mentioned Sergio Lambertucci, a find out about co-author and biologist on the National University of Comahue in Argentina.
“When you see condors circling, they are taking advantage of those thermal uplifts,” or emerging gusts of heat air, he mentioned.
The recording units have been programmed to fall off the birds after a few week.
Retrieving them wasn’t really easy.
“Sometimes the devices dropped off into nests on huge cliffs in the middle of the Andes mountains, and we needed three days just to get there,” mentioned Lambertucci.