Why do Flocks of Birds Move In Uni­son?

Modern Pioneer - - Pioneer Post -

We’ve all seen flocks of birds move in uni­son and mar­veled at their pre­ci­sion, but how do they do it and why?

Ac­cord­ing to zo­ol­o­gist Wayne Potts, pub­lish­ing in the jour­nal Na­ture in 1984, the birds don’t fol­low a leader or even their neigh­bor, as some might sus­pect. In­stead, the birds an­tic­i­pate the move­ment, which then spreads like a wave through­out the flock.

Potts called the phe­nom­e­non a “ma­noeu­vre wave,” and noted that it could start slow, but picks up speed as it trav­els through the flock. Potts an­a­lyzed high-speed film, frame by frame, of im­ages taken of red-backed sand­pipers for his study. He dis­cov­ered that the flock re­sponded to birds that banked into rather than away from the flock.

Such a re­sponse is log­i­cal be­cause the pur­pose of the flock is to pro­tect in­di­vid­ual birds from preda­tors and to lo­cate food. So, like most things in na­ture, the ma­noeu­vre wave is just as use­ful to birds as it is beau­ti­ful to be­hold.

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