V-flying birds pick efficient flapping pattern

Timing is everything to catch a boost from a neighbor’s wing

By Susan Milius, 13:10 PM January 15, 2014

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A bird migrating with others in a V formation turns out to be a master of the well-timed flap, able to match the up-and-down path traced by the wing tip of the bird in front of it. 

Fighter pilots know the benefits of flying in a V formation. Wings create a vortex of whooshing air trailing from their tips, and a rearward plane that keeps one of its wing tips in a vortex from the plane in front gets a boost from the upwash of air and can save fuel. But birds flap their wings, and ...

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