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Flight speed adjustments in waders

A fresh paper by Anders Hedenström and Susanne Åkesson, published in Animal Behaviour, describes the flight speed adjustment by three wader species in relation to winds and flock size. The flight tracks of the migrating shorebirds were measured by an ornithodolite at southern Öland.
Eurasian oystercatcher
Photo: Eurasian oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus). Pjt56, Wikipedia

The study showed that responses to cross-winds to achieve compensation differed on a small geographical scale (a few kilometres) in migrating shorebirds, where the availability of topographical features such as coastlines may play an important role for the birds' behaviour. It was also shown that airspeed was significantly influenced by flock size in three species of shorebirds, increasing with increasing flock size - which contrary to the prediction based on the hypothesis of energy saving by flight in flock formation, but in agreement with empirical findings for migrating terns. The reason why flock size influences airspeed remains unclear, but Hedenström and Åkesson propose a mechanistic explanation based on the largest/heaviest individual(s) determining the speed of the flock.

To the paper: "Flight speed adjustment by three wader species in relation to winds and flock size"

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