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Why Birds Fly In a V Formation

samzenpus posted about 3 months ago | from the heading-south dept.

Science 207

sciencehabit writes "Anyone watching the autumn sky knows that migrating birds fly in a V formation, but scientists have long debated why. A new study of ibises — where researchers took to microlight planes and recorded birds strapped with GPS in-flight — finds that these big-winged birds carefully position their wingtips and sync their flapping, presumably to catch the preceding bird's updraft and save energy during flight."

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207 comments

This is new? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45972271)

I remember being taught this as a child in the 80s.

Re:This is new? (4, Informative)

noobermin (1950642) | about 3 months ago | (#45972309)

If you read the article, this has been posited, but now it has been tested by the experiment mentioned in the summary.

Re:This is new? (4, Interesting)

iggymanz (596061) | about 3 months ago | (#45972339)

which was done decades ago, I laughed at the 80s mention, I was taught as child in the 60s and in 70s this was popular science fair homemade wind tunnel experiment.

About once a month slashdot runs article on "discovery" or "invention" that is decades old

Re:This is new? (2, Funny)

nedlohs (1335013) | about 3 months ago | (#45972493)

Right, because the guy should have remembered being taught it before he was born rather than so late in the game as when he was a child.

Re:This is new? (3, Funny)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about 3 months ago | (#45972705)

Right, because the guy should have remembered being taught it before he was born rather than so late in the game as when he was a child.

Well, whatever we do, by no means should science draw from the past experience and knowledge of the world.

If we ever create a world-wide instantaneous knowledge discovery system, it will be the end of all progress.

In other words: That he does not know it upon birth is a damn design flaw, human.

Re:This is new? (1)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | about 3 months ago | (#45972881)

Right, because the guy should have remembered being taught it before he was born rather than so late in the game as when he was a child.

Well, ya, if he's Benjamin Buttons [wikipedia.org].

Re:This is new? (4, Funny)

Nyder (754090) | about 3 months ago | (#45973709)

Right, because the guy should have remembered being taught it before he was born rather than so late in the game as when he was a child.

If only we had places where information could be stored and searched so people who think they've figured out something new can actually look to see if it's new.

Re:This is new? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45973641)

[...] I laughed at the 80s mention, I was taught as child in the 60s [...]

LOL I know... What, is noobermin supposed to be like 20 years younger than you or something? Haha, it's preposterous! Next thing you know someone's going to claim that they're up to 20 years older than you! Or imagine like... 30 years? C'mon, "age!?" ROFLMAO!

Re:This is new? (1)

cameloid (120654) | about 3 months ago | (#45973781)

Yeah, but it's no fun trying to stuff a chicken into a wind tunnel that's two sizes too small.

Re: This is new? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45972389)

That's stupid. The Air Force already showed they can save tons of fuel flying their jets like that. Isn't that proof enough when coupled with the fact that birds have always done this?

Re: This is new? (2)

noobermin (1950642) | about 3 months ago | (#45972427)

I'm assuming that they're saying because it works with plane wings, they can expect that's why birds do it (TFA says this), but I'm assuming they never tested the hypothesis on birds.

In fact, TFA suggests that a more rigorous test would be to put birds in a wind tunnel, which obviously wouldn't be too fun for the birds.

Re: This is new? (1)

dbarron (286) | about 3 months ago | (#45972453)

Do you suppose we could suggest house sparrows, grackles, or starlings as research birds in the wind tunnels? There are certainly enough of them in most major cities.

Re: This is new? (5, Funny)

Dan East (318230) | about 3 months ago | (#45972553)

They should also test an unladen swallow.

Re: This is new? (1)

riverat1 (1048260) | about 3 months ago | (#45972997)

I think this applies more to larger birds that fly long distances in a flock. The energy savings could make a significant difference for them. I don't see small birds flying in a V formation that much.

Re: This is new? (3, Interesting)

Em Adespoton (792954) | about 3 months ago | (#45973723)

Pigeons fly in V formation, as do crows. Actually, most birds that size do. Once you start getting smaller though, they flock, but don't do the V formation -- even with migratory birds. Once you're down to Juncos, Chickadees and Sparrows, they use more of a chaotic swarm and weave method to confuse predators -- but they also tend to hop from tree to tree, and don't fly long distances in the open.

What really confuses me is seagulls -- they flock like smaller birds and yet travel distances and have few (land/air) predators.

Re: This is new? (1)

Em Adespoton (792954) | about 3 months ago | (#45973701)

That's a big assumption, as I saw articles written up on this in the 90's that used thermal imaging cameras to accomplish the same thing -- and experiments using the wings of dead birds in a V in a wind tunnel in the 80's. in the 00's, there was even some thermal-based studies using high speed cameras that uncovered extra vortices and other neat tricks employed by bird wings that had never been seen before.

In short, the news is that some Biology major discovered something in a novel way for his thesis, and journalists picked up the simplest bit of the study results as the "story" without doing their history checking first.

Re:This is new? (2)

TheloniousToady (3343045) | about 3 months ago | (#45972935)

Now that they've got that one nailed down, they should do a similar study to test certain long-held theories about bicyclist behavior in the Tour de France.

Re:This is new? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45972547)

I remember being taught this as a child in the 80s.

tested [discovery.com]

Re:This is new? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45972559)

Mythbusters proved this already !

Re:This is new? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45972633)

Mythbusters also covered this. How much was spent on this study and was it public money?

Re:This is new? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45973751)

Mythbusters also covered this.

Mythbusters doesn't cover shit (aside from their corporate asses), what with their "secret sauce" concoctions, proprietary procedures, and other censored-"science" bullshit.

How much was spent on this study and was it public money?

Dunno, don't care... And as long as orders-of-magnitude more of the public's money is blown on overseas "defense" and other state-capitalist corporate welfare, I'll continue in my failure to care. If it's important to you, you can pony up for your own congressional whore to divert revenue into the pocket of your choice.

Re:This is new? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45972651)

We've run out of things to study.

I'm serious. New research is hard, but studying things that have already been researched in the past and have already developed an accepted consensus is much easier to do. Plus the researches can take grant money from the clueless and use that on trivial shit like this and pocket the rest.

Think I'm joking? If only you knew...

Re:This is new? (5, Informative)

Rutulian (171771) | about 3 months ago | (#45972683)

This was my first reaction too. However, reading the article (I know, I must be new here) clears it up,

There are two reasons birds might fly in a V formation: It may make flight easier, or they’re simply following the leader. Squadrons of planes can save fuel by flying in a V formation, and many scientists suspect that migrating birds do the same. Models that treated flapping birds like fixed-wing airplanes estimate that they save energy by drafting off each other, but currents created by airplanes are far more stable than the oscillating eddies coming off of a bird. “Air gets pretty darn wiggy behind a flapping wing,” says James Usherwood, a locomotor biomechanist at the Royal Veterinary College at the University of London in Hatfield, where the research took place.

Just as aerodynamic estimates would predict, the birds positioned themselves to fly just behind and to the side of the bird in front, timing their wing beats to catch the uplifting eddies. When a bird flew directly behind another, the timing of the flapping reversed so that it could minimize the effects of the downdraft coming off the back of the bird’s body.

“From a behavioral perspective it’s really a breakthrough,” says David Lentink, a mechanical engineer at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, who was not involved in the work. “Showing that birds care about syncing their wing beats is definitely an important insight that we didn’t have before.”

And from the actual research article,

Many species travel in highly organized groups. The most quoted function of these configurations is to reduce energy expenditure and enhance locomotor performance of individuals in the assemblage. The distinctive V formation of bird flocks has long intrigued researchers and continues to attract both scientific and popular attention. The well-held belief is that such aggregations give an energetic benefit for those birds that are flying behind and to one side of another bird through using the regions of upwash generated by the wings of the preceding bird, although a definitive account of the aerodynamic implications of these formations has remained elusive.

We conclude that the intricate mechanisms involved in V formation flight indicate awareness of the spatial wake structures of nearby flock-mates, and remarkable ability either to sense or predict it. We suggest that birds in V formation have phasing strategies to cope with the dynamic wakes produced by flapping wings.

So, it's a little bit of a behavioral science study...is saving energy why they do it, or is saving energy just a happy consequence? And it's also a bit of a mechanism study...to gain the most aerodynamic benefit requires adjustment of the wing and position to meet the updrafts, so how well do the birds do this?

Re:This is new? (2)

antifoidulus (807088) | about 3 months ago | (#45973367)

So, it's a little bit of a behavioral science study...is saving energy why they do it, or is saving energy just a happy consequence?

Its evolution. Up until humans invented the SUV evolution tended to favor those that conserved energy.

Re:This is new? (4, Insightful)

Immerman (2627577) | about 3 months ago | (#45973757)

>So, it's a little bit of a behavioral science study...is saving energy why they do it, or is saving energy just a happy consequence?

That seems like a question that would be *extremely* hard to answer in any way except "of course they do it because it saves energy". Assume for the sake of argument that it can somehow be proven that each individual bird flies as it does simply because it "feels good", or any other reason. The question still remains *why* does it "feel good", with the answer almost certainly being that evolution, that old non-sentient intelligence, sculpted the species in favor of some random mutation that made a more energy-efficient behavior "feel good". If there hadn't been a survival benefit to the behavior then it's unlikely it would have spread throughout the entire population.

It's like the adage says: "We don't like sugar because it's sweet, sugar is sweet because we like it". There's nothing inherently "sweet" about a sugar molecule, sweetness is a function of our brains interpretation of the signals from the chemo-receptors on our tongues. Sugar triggers a pleasure-response (sweetness) because our metabolisms can harness it as a rich energy source. Some distant ancestor who found sugar pleasurable consumed more energy rich fruits, and thus had more energy available and could out-compete their "sweet-less" rivals, and so the mutation spread throughout the population. Cats on the other hand are obligate carnivores whose metabolisms can't efficiently process sugars, and they lack the appropriate chemoreceptors to detect them - for them sugar is *not* sweet, and any mutation that changed that would rapidly fall out of the population because it would reduce the amount of fats and proteins consumed in favor of sugars that don't provide them much energy, making the afflicted individuals less competitive.

Research into the actual *mechanism* of the energy savings is still interesting though, we are only just beginning to understand the subtleties of flexible-wing flight. Dragonflies for example actually appear to use their front wings specifically to generate vortices (generally considered energy-sapping flaws to be minimized in fixed-wing aircraft) rather than producing thrust - the rear wings then interact with those vortices in a manner that provides more thrust than they could hope to generate directly. *Extremely* sophisticated energy-optimizing behavior that makes our fanciest aerodynamics technologies look like dog-paddling in comparison.

Re:This is new? (2)

bwanagary (522899) | about 3 months ago | (#45972895)

Seriously dudes, its much simpler than that.
Birds fly in a 'V' formation because they "poop in flight". Unless you want to be covered in excrement you learn to fly a little offset from the bird in front of you so that you don't get smeared with the "exhaust". Makes it really hard to see where you're flying. Even birds can figure that much out.

Re:This is new? (1)

Z00L00K (682162) | about 3 months ago | (#45973083)

And the results are hardly surprising. If there wasn't an advantage in that kind of formation the birds wouldn't have been using it.

Obvious and already known (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45972279)

What a waste of money.

Re:Obvious and already known (1)

Baloroth (2370816) | about 3 months ago | (#45972561)

What a waste of money.

No, it was assumed. In science, there is a massive gap between assumption and knowledge. The point of science is to bridge that gap.

Re:Obvious and already known (1)

Em Adespoton (792954) | about 3 months ago | (#45973733)

It was assumed by many, but it's been tested in one manner or another for decades.

a definitive account of the aerodynamic implications of these formations has remained elusive.

I guess it depends what you consider "definitive" -- and that's going to be different for each type of bird. The aerodynamic implications have been tested before, and the conclusions, unsurprisingly, were the same.

Who is John Galt? (2)

noobermin (1950642) | about 3 months ago | (#45972283)

I'm assuming then that the other birds are freeloaders.

Re:Who is John Galt? (5, Funny)

Kyont (145761) | about 3 months ago | (#45972479)

No, it's an anarcho-syndicalist commune. They take it in turns to act as a sort of executive lead-bird of the flight.

Re:Who is John Galt? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45972783)

I bet some take more turns than others.

Sounds like birdocracy to me.

Old news...very old (3, Insightful)

Nethemas the Great (909900) | about 3 months ago | (#45972289)

This has long been the explanation of why birds fly in an echelon formation and why throughout a migration the front ranks cycle from the front to the rear. As the leading rank of birds tire, the next rank takes over allowing them a bit of a rest.

Re:Old news...very old (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45972517)

This ^

Amazing that some people are still looking for s different answer after all these years.

READ TFA (2)

noobermin (1950642) | about 3 months ago | (#45972673)

Damn it slashdot, read the article. Although it doesn't claim explicitly that this is the first time this hypothesis has been tested, if anything, it appears this was just a study that verified that this hypothesis is correct. People already posited this and apply it for jets (see jets that fly in echelon formation), but, at least what is said and implied in TFA, this seems to still be something that is a matter of debate.

Re:Old news...very old (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | about 3 months ago | (#45972691)

It's called vortex surfing. It's one of many forms of drafting.

Tailgating is dangerous. But if you drive in the adjacent lane on a highway next to another car, you can gain higher MPG if you're trailing behind at an angle. Essentially in the blind-spot of the other driver. It's still dangerous, just be sure to break loose on those long interstate drives to reminding the other driver you're still nearby. Have a newer car that displays the MPG in real time? The change is rather impressive once you find that optimal "zone". I remember in the early 90s about a system of car platooining. Essentialy a computer controlled chain of tailgating cars all synced up. Sounds interesting, until someone hits a deer or a patch of black ice...

Re:Old news...very old (2, Interesting)

Cramer (69040) | about 3 months ago | (#45972775)

Incorrect. Watch some windtunnel tests. The vortex is behind the vehicle, not beside it.

A better word for this is "slipstream". You get close enough to have no air to push through. If your car has radar cruise control, following close enough to make a huge difference isn't too dangerous. (obviously on a highway where people aren't very unpredictable. and you're far better off following semi's.)

Re:Old news...very old (1)

Banichi (1255242) | about 3 months ago | (#45973631)

>The vortex is behind the vehicle, not beside it.
>you're far better off following semi's.

Relative mass, speed and volume of air shoved aside are all considerations. A semi driving in the near lane almost took me off the sidewalk and into oncoming traffic when I was bicycling down a local hill, once upon a time.

Re:Old news...very old (1)

vikingpower (768921) | about 3 months ago | (#45973769)

Exactly. I once had a colleague who, when on the highway, ALWAYS hung behind a truck. He had impressively low MPG - and needed much more time than others to reach his target, but simply calculated this in. I have verified it myself with a Renault Laguna: hanging behind a truck can reduce your MPG up to 40%.

Re:Old news...very old (1)

Cramer (69040) | about 3 months ago | (#45973833)

INCREASE! Increased MPG == less fuel burned.

The only reason it "takes longer" is because you spend FAR less time excessively speeding. The drag on a car increases exponentially the faster you go. Simply staying between 60 and 70mph will do a lot for fuel economy; hanging out in the trailing edge of a semi's vortex will do even more amazing things. (I once did 60mpg in a Lexus HS along I-20 in SC; and then 30 in the other direction :-) No truck, and I was movin')

Re:Old news...very old (2)

Immerman (2627577) | about 3 months ago | (#45973807)

Actually no, vortices and slipstreams are two related but very distinct concepts. Slipstreaming or drafting involves taking advantage of reduction in aerodynamic drag available from traveling within someone else's the slipstream or "wind shadow" - the region directly behind them where the fluid is moving at approximately the same speed as the object itself. Vortex surfing is a related phenomena, but rather than traveling within someone's slipstream to reduce your air speed and thus drag at the same ground speed, it harnesses the well-ordered turbulence (vortices) generated by the wings of the leading airframe in order to amplify the lift generated by your own wings. Completely different mechanism, and you're traveling within a completely different part of the leader's wake.

Re:Old news...very old (1)

professionalfurryele (877225) | about 3 months ago | (#45973265)

It's almost as though theorists saying something is so isn't enough to convince engineers and experimentalists. This clear breach of the scientific method, where whatever theorists say must be so and experimentalists have to live with it whatever they mesure, has gone unpunished. Until this study we didn't know that this is why birds do this. Even after this study we don't know if this is why birds do this (the energetics could be a co-incidence). You sir, are an insufficiently skeptical moron.

Not always (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45972305)

In the northern hemisphere they actually fly in an A formation. Only in the southern hemisphere do they fly in a V.

Something to do with the Coriolis effect.

Re:Not always (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45972361)

Definitely not due to the Coriolis effect which only works at very macro scales

Re:Not always (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45972413)

The Coriolis effect works at micro scales. Just setup a pendulum and watch it slowly turn. I think you meant that in nature it usually only manifests at macro scales, because it's a relatively weak force relative to everything else acting upon objects in nature.

And I think you missed the joke.

Re:Not always (3, Funny)

SJHillman (1966756) | about 3 months ago | (#45972379)

I once saw a flock in F formation meet up with a flock in U formation. I think they might be the descendants of the birds I pissed off with a BB gun when I was a child.

Re:Not always (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45972909)

You can often still find flocks in an F formation, combined with a U formation, closely followed by an AROCK formation too. You'll find those birds are all arfcom boobies too.

Re:Not always (1)

riverat1 (1048260) | about 3 months ago | (#45973035)

In the northern hemisphere they actually fly in an A formation. Only in the southern hemisphere do they fly in a V.

Wouldn't that depend on whether they're flying north or south? I guess if they're flying west in the northern hemisphere they must be flying in a "less than" formation and east in a "greater than" formation then.

News? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45972307)

I learned this in high school. Lucky guess on my teacher's part?

Re:News? (1)

Chompjil (2746865) | about 3 months ago | (#45972321)

Learned it in Elementary School, maybe we had the same teachers at one point?

Re:News? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45972351)

Same theory I was taught as a student for ducks.

Wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45972327)

Line of sight for holding formation is much easier than in a horizontal line for example, while still allowing each bird an unobstructed forward view.

Re:Wrong (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about 3 months ago | (#45973827)

But what is the advantage to flying in formation rather than in the disorganized flock that most short-range birds seem to prefer? These aren't bureaucratic minds pursuing order for the sake of order - instinctual behaviors almost always exist because they bestow a definite advantage upon those who display them. Or at least they did at some point in the past, and don't carry enough of a cost to have been bred away since the historical conditions changed

This makes me optimistic (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45972373)

about getting funding for *my* study on why dogs lick their balls.

Re: This makes me optimistic (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45972463)

Dude, this is old news. My elementary teacher taught us this in the '80s. It's an aerodynamic practice to make them super smooth so they can catch cars with less drag and better use of their energy. Just like speed swimmers like to shave their balls -- but dogs can't hold a razer very well.

Re: This makes me optimistic (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45973803)

Dued what was taught in 80's is still a postulation, he needs funding for research to establish a fact.

Re:This makes me optimistic (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about 3 months ago | (#45972809)

After the discovery that they wag their tails to spread their anal stenches, I remain optimistic about the potential revelations of your study.

Re:This makes me optimistic (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45972915)

"why dogs lick their balls" It's because they can. NO grant for you.

The leader (1)

ls671 (1122017) | about 3 months ago | (#45972391)

I went quickly over TFA and I can't find a mention of leader birds switching turns to avoid exhaustion. Not much value in their research.

But why is one side longer than the other? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45972409)

Because there are more birds in it!

to save energy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45972419)

Birds are lazy. Who would have guessed?!

If you asked this question... (1)

Rick in China (2934527) | about 3 months ago | (#45972441)

Of pretty much anyone I know, they'd all reply with this answer. I've never heard another explanation, actually. Was this study done by interns trying to practice a study procedure as opposed to figure out something important/unknown? Not the type of paper I'd expect any scientist to fight to get their name on.

LIES! ALL LIES! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45972443)

Obviously the birds fly in a V formation to avoid being pooped on by the leader birds.

Re:LIES! ALL LIES! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45972527)

That would explain why the angle of the formation becomes more obtuse after they've raided the dumpster behind the taco-bell.

Re:LIES! ALL LIES! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45972629)

Especially seagulls. Did you ever notice how science always chooses the more convoluted, bizarre explanations over the simple, obvious ones, like this.
Occam's razor proves GOD.

Old research notes on this have been dumped (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45972521)

Yes I had heard this explanation in the late 40's. But I guess all that old research is in a Canadian dump now and has to be done over again.

Hell, I'll fund it. (1)

DrPBacon (3044515) | about 3 months ago | (#45972523)

If you're checking whether they orient their balls towards the sun before they lick, then yes, you're sure to get funding.

now, maybe, there's DATA not guesswork? (5, Insightful)

dltaylor (7510) | about 3 months ago | (#45972587)

Although this may not be the first time the airflow effects have been measured "in the wild", I cannot remember any previous instance.

There are a lot of things "everybody knows" that have never been verified. It doesn't hurt to run the experiments and perform the verification.

"Everybody knew" that time passed slower on a body moving faster; after all, Einstain had said so. Still, it wasn't until we put sufficiently accurate chronometers on spacecraft that we really knew it, because they did, in fact, show that the spacecraft experienced less time than the ground stations. Although surface installations are "orbiting" at about 1000 MPH (too easy with a 24 hour day and 24000 mile circumference), and are at the 1G level of the Earth's gravity well (also has an effect), the space craft are moving at about 16000 MPH (90 minute orbit at 100 mile AGL) and still at nearly the 1G level of the gravity well. That 15000 MPH difference shows up readily, even after the adjustment for gravity.

Re:now, maybe, there's DATA not guesswork? (1)

wvmarle (1070040) | about 3 months ago | (#45972725)

Not birds, but I do recall a Mythbusters episode where they tried it with small aircraft and found a similar effect. Must have been a quite scary experiment :-) And as others pointed out, many wind tunnel experiments showed the same effects as well.

The real breakthrough: why one side is longer (1)

mamer-retrogamer (556651) | about 3 months ago | (#45972687)

The real breakthrough was determining why one side of the formation is often longer than the other. They determined it was because there were more birds on one side. (Really? Who didn't know this?)

Re:The real breakthrough: why one side is longer (1)

Trax3001BBS (2368736) | about 3 months ago | (#45973053)

The real breakthrough was determining why one side of the formation is often longer than the other. They determined it was because there were more birds on one side. (Really? Who didn't know this?)

That is one of the better jokes...

Know why one side is longer than the other?

Why? they're interest really peaked.

Cause there more birds on that side.

Gets em every time,

(Really? Who didn't know this?)

I must run around with idiots :} na, it's the kids you ask...

Read the bleepin' article, you guys! (1)

Chirs (87576) | about 3 months ago | (#45972741)

The point of the article is that the wake left by a flapping wing is more complicated than the wake left by a fixed wing such as an aircraft. It turns out (and I don't remember reading about this before) that the birds are actually adjusting their position and flapping to get the most benefit.

This makes sense logically, but this is the only study I know of that actually verified it. You know, like science requires...

But why is one side of the V longer? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45972767)

Because there are more birds on that side!!

Mythbusters (1)

pcjunky (517872) | about 3 months ago | (#45972871)

Didn't Mythbusters experimentally show that the V formation saves fuel?

Re:Mythbusters (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45972931)

... for fixed wing airplanes.
So did the USAF decades ago.
The news here is that they measured the trailing bird synchronizing its flapping to the leading one and that the phase shift depends on distance and offset.

Everybody knows that ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45972877)

You could save 15% or more on car insurance ... well did you know that birds flying in a V formation saves them energy in flight.

Re:Everybody knows that ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45973483)

I think it's funny that they call themselves morons. "15% or moron car insurance"

Really that hard? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45972921)

Article makes it sound like this formation is some great feat. When I am with a group of cyclists, it's not too hard to feel the 'draft' of the person in front on my face and arms then move a little right or left to compensate and stay in the sweet spot. All I really care about is the one or maybe two people in front. There may be 10 guys behind me, but all they care about is the person in front of them, too, so it's not like some great neural net to keep the formation...all we do is sense the draft of one person in front.

Convergence by Probability (0)

dorpus (636554) | about 3 months ago | (#45973003)

Sooner or later, every cat I've owned has developed a habit of resting next to me while pushing their hindfoot against me. It seems to be their way of showing affection while still asserting dominance.

Smart niggers are smart. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45973359)

Some black-African-Congo-jungle niggers gangbanged my grandmother in a V formation. Smart niggers are smart.

Sight (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45973787)

Maybe they fly in V formation because this way it is easier for them to keep track of the bird(s) flying in front.

Product placement is the reason - DUH (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45973795)

Hail to the V!
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