Some of the built-in tricks for extreme bird balancers work without muscle effort
A question flamingo researchers get asked all the time — why the birds stand on one leg — may need rethinking. The bigger puzzle may be why flamingos bother standing on two.
Balance aids built into the birds’ basic anatomy allow for a one-legged stance that demands little muscular effort, tests find. This stance is so exquisitely stable that a bird sways less to keep itself upright when it appears to be dozing than when it’s alert with eyes open, two Atlanta neuromechanists report May 24 in Biology Letters.
“Most of us aren’t aware that we’re moving around all the time,” says Lena Ting of Emory University, who measures what’s called postural sway in standing people as well as in animals. Just keeping the human body vertical demands constant sensing and muscular correction for wavering. Even standing robots “are