Image of the Day: Migrating Storks

Ornithologists tagged 27 juvenile birds to track the method they utilize updrafts of air heated up by the sun to move over fars away.

GPS information visualization of 27 storks thermalling in an upwind. The flight course of each bird is color-coded based upon its general flapping activity from blue (low) to red (high). COPYRIGHT RENAUD BASTIEN AND MATE NAGY, MAX PLANCK INSTITUTE FOR ORNITHOLOGY RADOLFZELL I n a research study released the other day (Might 24) in Science, scientists explain the social characteristics at play in moving flocks of white storks ( Ciconia ciconia). Utilizing GPS tags to track people throughout the journey, Andrea Flack of limit Planck Institute for Ornithology and her associates discovered that some birds, which they called “leaders,” play a higher function in directing the flock than other birds, which they called “fans.”

The storks take a trip from Africa to Europe and back once again every year, covering countless kilometers in each migration. To conserve energy, they get elevation by moving in circles inside columns of increasing warm air, called thermals. By evaluating their motions, Flack and associates discovered that the leaders determined the thermals, flapped their wings less, and flew further than the fans.

A. Flack et al., “From regional cumulative habits to international migratory patterns in white storks,” Science, doi: 10.1126/science aap7781, 2018.

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