How do birds fine-tune their wing-shape?

BBC Wildlife Magazine - - OUR WILDWORLD - Amy-Jane Beer

AWing-shape de­ter­mines the type of flight to which a bird is best suited. The short wings of robins are great for ma­noeu­vra­bil­ity, for in­stance, while the ta­pered wings of swifts al­low for speed. Most birds can make some ad­just­ments by flex­ing the wrist (a wing joint) or al­ter­ing the an­gle of the hand bones (at the end of the wing).

Ex­treme wing shapes come with lim­i­ta­tions. Short wings must be flapped rapidly to main­tain lift, while very long ones make take-off tricky. Some species, such as red kites, try to have it all, sport­ing long-ish wings with slot­ted tips for both ef­fi­ciency and fine con­trol – the po­si­tion of the pri­mary feath­ers can be ad­justed to catch or spill air.

The long, plank-like wings of the wan­der­ing al­ba­tross en­able it to soar for long dis­tances, sav­ing en­ergy.

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