AUGUST 7, 2019
Wildlife researchers have long tried to understand why birds fly in flocks, ranging from structured V-formations to loose clusters that involve complex aerodynamic interactions between group members. Frequently cited benefits of collective travel include improved flight efficiency, enhanced navigation and greater safety from predators.
Partially supported by the EU-funded HawkEye project, a team of researchers have found that homing pigeons expend more energy flying in pairs rather than solo. Their findings were published in the journal PLOS Biology. "As expected, paired individuals benefited from improved homing route accuracy, which reduced flight distance by 7 percent and time by 9 percent."
In a press release by the University of Oxford's Department of Zoology, the study's lead author Dr. Lucy Taylor says: "The results of this study were completely unexpected. Energy is the currency of life so it's astonishing that the birds are prepared to pay a substantial energetic cost to fly together."