Leadership is always a team game for the migratory birds when they flock together on a trip north or south to new territory.
A new research showed that these migratory birds take turns in order to lead the V-formations, while frequently gracing the skies in the migration seasons for the arduous process. Scientists find this action especially risky for juvenile birds.
Flying in the formation of V-shape contributes in slashing the energy expenditures by allowing these birds to take the best benefits of updrafts developed by the wings of the birds that are flying ahead of them.
Researchers said that it is not necessary that every spot in a V- formation is equally beneficial for the birds. This is the reason why these birds continue mixing up by constantly switching their places. This shifting of place ensures an equal amount of aerodynamic assistance to every member of the formation.
According to the researchers, this socialized approach to migratory travel results in giving equal opportunity to each member of a flock to take a turn at leading the V-formation.
Bernhard Voelkl, study author and a researcher at the Department of Zoology in the Oxford University, said, “Our study shows that the ‘building blocks’ of reciprocal cooperative behavior can be very simple: ibis often travel in pairs, with one bird leading and a ‘wingman’ benefiting by following in the leader’s updraft.”
“It was discovered that in such pairs individuals take turns, attempting to match the amount of time spent in the energy-sapping lead position as well as the energy-saving following position,” Voelkly added.
In order to track the migrating ibis’ specific flying patterns, the study group outfitted specimens of over a dozen ‘human-imprinted’ birds with the devices for tracking. Then they led the birds carrying tracking devices on a migratory journey with a hang glider possessing the handlers of birds.
“We found that larger formations of ibis were still made up of these turn-taking pairs. The checking that went on within these pairs was sufficient on its own to prevent any freeloaders hitching a free ride within a V formation without leading. In fact, surprisingly, we found no evidence of ‘cheating’ of any kind,” Voelkl said.
Earlier research works has suggested that similar selfless cooperation boosts the chances of self-preservation in different species, such as penguins, which is well-known for rotating their position in huddles.
The findings of the study were published this week in the online journal PNAS.