Why do geese fly in a V shape?
Hello! In this tutorial, we are going to learn all about how geese fly. Specifically, we are going to find out how and why geese fly in a ‘V’ shape. Are you ready? Lets get started!
Why do geese fly in formation?
Why do geese fly in formation? Well, no body entirely knows for sure, but studies have given us some very good insights into the probable how’s and why’s. It’s pretty remarkable. It seems that geese fly in a V shape for two main reasons.
The first reason, is that flying in a v shape, helps conserve their energy – important when flying long distances. The second reason, is that flying in this shape helps all the geese in the flock keep an eye on each other, helping them stay together as they fly – and helping them do-ordinate their flying so they don’t have mid-air collisions!
How does formation flying help geese?
Let’s think about that V shape. There is one goose right at the front, leading the way, while all the other geese trail behind. This leader does all the hard work. She both leads the flock and expends the most energy, flying against wind resistance.
As she flies, she creates a little vortex of air currents behind her wings, which spiral round and round. Immediately behind her, the spiral is in the downwards position. But move a little to her side, and the spiral of air is pushing up. So, the geese behind her make use of this to help push them up through the air. The same happens for the goose flying behind this second one, and so on and so forth.
Why else is formation flying important?
Not only do the geese following behind the leader use their wing beat to lift and carry themselves forward, but each goose behind flaps its wings exactly in sync with the goose in front! This helps them make constant use of the vortex and so reduces their workload. And if they accidentally move behind the bird in front and get caught in the downwards vortex, the actually change their flap so they are flapping the wings exactly opposite to the bird in front of them. How clever!
What other benefits are there?
Apart from conserving energy, studies have shown that their are other benefits to formation flying too. While the leader of the flock is working so hard, those following behind have much slower heart rates and they flap their wings less frequently. This also true when comparing geese flying solo. Those birds flying in formation also have lower flap cycles and heart rates than than birds flying solo.
Which birds lead the formation?
The leaders seem to be those birds with the strongest flight. They are also more experienced birds – maybe the younger birds would lead the flock astray! Even so, it is very hard work and even the strongest flyer will tire eventually. So, the geese take it in turns to lead the flock, with the leader dropping back to rest, allowing the next bird to take over.
Why is one side always longer?
The pattern made when birds fly in formation as a flock, is called an echelon or skein. And a v-shaped echelon is not the only bird flight pattern. There is a J-shaped echelon too. In fact, if you observe a flock of geese flying in a V-shape, you might notice that one side of the V is actually longer than the other – this is the J shape. Again, no body quite knows for sure why more birds fly on one side than the other. Some people think it might be to do with prevailing wind directions or air currents. Others postulate that like humans, birds may be left or right handed and so prefer flying on one side. ..
Which birds fly in formation?
Geese are not the only birds to fly in a V formation. Ducks, ibis, swans, seagulls, pelicans and flamingos also fly in formation. As do some of our shore and marsh birds – we watched a flock of oyster catchers fly off in a perfect V-shaped echelon just this morning! Which birds have you seen?
Well, there we go!
I hope you have enjoyed this tutorial all about geese and their amazing flight formations. How many formations can you spot flying past this autumn? Oh, and if you wanted to learn more about how to identify our most common wild geese, I have put together a handy illustrated guide in this post.
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