Ibises fly as a team. Flying in a V formation, the birds coordinate their movements and swap spots, so each bird gets turns flying in another’s wake to save energy, says a study published February 2 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences.
Using bird-borne data loggers and a parachute plane, a team led by researchers at the University of Oxford followed 14 Northern bald ibises (Geronticus eremita) on their annual migration from Austria to Italy. The ibises spent about 32 percent of their time flying behind others, and a proportionate amount of time leading. This level of cooperative behavior is rare in animals and may help the birds fly more cohesively as a whole, the researchers suggest.