Why do birds fly in a V formation?

Everyone has looked up into the sky and observed a flock of birds sailing through the air. I am sure you have also noticed that they never fly in a circle, square, rhombus or hexagon. They always seem to fly in some sort of V formation. It may not always be a perfect V (sometimes there are some slow pokes in the back) but it always strongly resembles that shape. My question is why?

After reading various articles and linking all of my pervious new knowledge together, I was able to come up with a conclusion as to why birds behave this way. According to an article called “Why do migratory birds fly in a V-formation?” chief biologist, Bruce batt, states that the main reason for this behavior is the conservation of energy and proper aerodynamics. Batt states that the way the birds fly in an echelon, another word for the V-formation, makes the most sense aerodynamically. According to another study entitled ” Why do birds fly in a V? Science may now have an answer.” biologists, Steven Portugal and James Usherwood say that birds migrate this way because it entitles them to have the “best aerodynamic advantage.” To prove this hypothesis to be correct, Portugal and Usherwood created an observational study in which they monitored 14 birds of the same species. They watched for approximately 43 minutes before they came to a conclusion. From this procedure they were able to conclude that when the bird in front moves its body from side to side or flaps its wings, it is really helping all of the other birds behind it. From just these small movements, the bird in front is able to give the bird in back of it a small lift to help maintain the balance and reduce ” determinal downwash.” This formation also conserves energy because the birds towards the front help to block the wind from the birds towards the back making it easier for them. The study conducted by Portugal and Underwood is a good study because it coincides with the given hypothesis but there could be some adjustments to ensure that this hypothesis is true. An experimental procedure can be done where scientists monitor the speed, wingspan and of course the movements of a bird in the front and then also observe the bird behind it to see what happens to their movements and speed as well as look at how the air behaves. Although this procedure would also prove the hypothesis, there are definitely some factors that can deter this study such as weather and air quality of the location.

Next time you are mesmerized by a flock of birds in their echelon, remember this isn’t because they simply just like this formation, it is because this is the most aerodynamically sound way for them to migrate.




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2 thoughts on “Why do birds fly in a V formation?

  1. Mary-frances Grosholz Edwards

    This blog definitely got my attention because I oftentimes found myself wondering why I constantly saw flocks of birds moving in a V formation. My mom used to always tell me that it was simply because they were pointing south as they moved to a warmer region, however now I’m even more fascinated to find that there is an even more astounding reason for this shape. I never would have thought that the aerodynamics would be taken into consideration when they were flying through the air, but nowadays there are very few things that don’t amaze me about animals and specifically in this case, birds.

  2. Kirya Ades-Aron

    I always see birds flying in that V-formation but I never knew it was on purpose! I just thought that was simply how they ended up in the sky in order for all of them to see where they are going. That is so remarkable that birds can help each other maintain balance without touching each other at all. I never knew it had anything to do with being aerodynamic either. Birds are clearly much smarter than I thought! Do different types of birds fly in different shapes or do all birds, whether big or small fly in the v-formation?

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