The scientists discovered that in order to minimize the stressful experience, the birds in the group take turns in leading the flock.
The new research was conducted by a team of scientists from the Oxford University in the UK. They discovered that that after being the leader of the V formation group of birds, the bird transfers the responsibility to another bird in the flock.
The bird that was the leader then moves to the back of the flock, thus preserving its energy until it’s the bird’s turn to be the leader again.
According to the researchers, this recent discovery is actually the first conclusive evidence that birds take turns and have a cooperative behavior within their group.
In order to come to this conclusion, the scientists monitored a group of young Northern bald ibis during their migration period from Austria towards Italy. The researchers put on each bird a data logger device in order to track their position within the V formation.
The scientists observed that some individual birds used to change their position within the flock and took turns in leading the formation. The birds used the updraft from the other birds’ wings flapping to save approximately 10 to 14% of their energy.
Bernard Voelkl from the Oxford University’s Department of Zoology and lead author of the new study, said that in the V formation of the ibis birds, one of them is the leader while another bird takes the role of the wingman. The wingman usually takes advantage of the leader bird’s updraft.
According to Voelkl, these pairs of birds take turns and usually manage to spend an exact amount of time as the leader and the wingman. This strategy allows the birds to save energy, thus increasing their efficiency.
Scientists say that this kind of behavior is usually seen in pairs and occurs in large formations of birds.
The new study on migrating birds was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
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