Though it has been long suspected, it has finally been scientifically proven that birds fly in a V-formation to take advantage of the updraft of the birds in front. Steve Portugal, a researcher at the Royal Veterinary College in London, has finally documented the truth of this assumption using lightweight devices attached to balding ibis birds to measure their position and flapping. These devices have no transmitters so Portugal had to find birds that would allow human contact in order to retrieve the devices to gather the data. These birds have been raised by researchers from birth and so the birds have imprinted the researchers as their parents.
And the data shows that the birds are literally drafting, in other words, working less hard in flight by taking advantage of the updraft of the bird in front of them. Apparently the work continues to decrease the further back in the V a bird is.
Research is continuing to substantiate the assumption that the leader at the point of the V is a shared responsibility with birds taking turns flying the point. This is ultimate teamwork.
There’s a pretty terrific lesson here about the generosity of working together and the advantages of shared leadership. Aesthetically practical, liberally inclusive, utterly magical.