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Why Don’t Birds Crash as they Fly?

posted: 04/27/15
by: Discovery.com Staff
Seagull flying
Murat Ufuk GULER/Thinkstock

Ever wondered how birds soar through the air with such ease? A Harvard researcher set out to find out how our feathered friends are able to navigate at high speeds without crashing into the myriad of obstacles that they face. Researcher David Williams and his team built a 65-foot aerial obstacle course filled with vertical poles and observed how the birds navigated the course.

Williams originally anticipated to see birds utilizing a variety of proactive postures to help them avoid collision with environmental hazards, such as buildings and trees. In reality, the birds used only two different postures, one where their wings are held out, and another where their wings were folded inward:


"It was surprising to see a very high-order animal like a bird using very simple motor programs. Biology is optimized to be just good enough to work, so what that indicates is those are very effective motor programs," said Williams.

Going forward, Williams plans to investigate how bird flight patterns can held drones fly more efficiently.

Click here for more information from Harvard

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