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…

http://www.wilcephotos.com/Northern-Arizona/JMW-Birds-Bees-Etc/i-qndbZbn/0/Th/BIF-Duck%3B%20BubblingPonds%3B%20IMG_9073%20C1PSD1-Th.jpg

… 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.

http://www.wilcephotos.com/Northern-Arizona/JMW-Birds-Bees-Etc/i-BTSXvhF/0/Th/CanadaGeeseInFlight%3B%20OldWalnutCanyonRoadPonds%3B%20FlagstaffAZ%3B%20IMG_8802%20C2PSD1%20NEW-Th.jpg

Why might these birds do such a thing?

http://www.wilcephotos.com/Northern-Arizona/JMW-Birds-Bees-Etc/i-6CQjzMb/0/Th/CanadaGeese%28SmallFlock%29InFlight%3B%20OldWalnutCanyonRoadPond%3B%20FlagstaffAZ%3B%206227%20PSD2-Th.jpg

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s