Swift Lift: Birds may get a rise out of swirling air | Science News



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Swift Lift: Birds may get a rise out of swirling air

2:44pm, December 8, 2004

Birds do it, and bees do it. But until recently, scientists thought the birds and bees did it in different ways.

We're talking about flying, of course. Researchers have known for years that insects fly thanks to whirlpools of air called leading-edge vortices that form above their flapping wings (SN: 6/19/99, p. 390). Those low-pressure swirls create suction that pulls the insect upward.

The new findings suggest that leading-edge vortices play a crucial role in bird flight as well. John J. Videler of the University of Groningen in Haren, the Netherlands, and his colleagues have documented on video such vortices above models of the wings of birds called swifts. The scientists report their findings in the Dec. 10 Science

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