What’s With the V-Formation?

It is an inspiring, though common, thing to see flocks of ducks or geese flying overhead in V-formation. A duck flying alone is also beautiful, as is this mallard…


… but a group of birds synchronizing or coordinating their behavior presents us with a different kind of beauty.  This group of Canada Geese flying in a V-formation is an example.


Why might these birds do such a thing?


A long line of naturalists have speculated that all but the lead birds in a V-formation are taking advantage of the lead bird’s work in “parting the waters” so to speak—piercing the air and creating a beneficial “up-wash.” Thus most birds flying in V-formation are saving precious energy.

Wikipedia has several articles relevant to the phenomenon, including this article  summarizing the science of V-formations. However, although geese flying overhead do not do so for our benefit, our aesthetic experience of their flight is real and important, transcending even the science I happen to love.






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