Date: June 19, 2019
Source: Swansea University
We marvel at flying animals because it seems like they can access anywhere, but a first study of its kind has revealed that wind can prevent seabirds from accessing the most important of habitats: their nests.
If human pilots or animals are to land safely, they must monitor and respond to the wind. These ideas are well established in aeronautical engineering, but how the win affects the ability of birds to land has never been considered before.
In a paper published by eLife, biologists including Dr Emily Shepard at Swansea University observed common guillemots and razorbills attempting to land on their breeding cliffs on Skomer Island, Wales. They then teamed up with Dr Andrew Ross, a meteorologist at Leeds University, to assess how the number of successful and aborted landings varied with the wind and turbulence around Skomer.
Seabirds live in windy, often remote places. Many species choose to breed on steep cliffs, where nests cannot be reached by land-based predators. Here, adults must land on small ledges, and they must do this with sufficient control that they do not dislodge their egg or chick.