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Physical limits of flight performance in the heaviest soaring bird

H. J. Williams, Emily Shepard Orcid Logo, Mark D. Holton, P. A. E. Alarcón, R. P. Wilson, S. A. Lambertucci, Mark Holton Orcid Logo, Rory Wilson Orcid Logo

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Start page: 201907360

Swansea University Authors: Emily Shepard Orcid Logo, Mark Holton Orcid Logo, Rory Wilson Orcid Logo

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Abstract

Flight costs are predicted to vary with environmental conditions, and this should ultimately determine the movement capacity and distributions of large soaring birds. Despite this, little is known about how flight effort varies with environmental parameters. We deployed bio-logging devices on the wo...

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Published in: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
ISSN: 0027-8424 1091-6490
Published: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 2020
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URI: https://cronfa.swan.ac.uk/Record/cronfa54372
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spelling 2022-10-24T10:22:30.4881604 v2 54372 2020-06-01 Physical limits of flight performance in the heaviest soaring bird 54729295145aa1ea56d176818d51ed6a 0000-0001-7325-6398 Emily Shepard Emily Shepard true false 0e1d89d0cc934a740dcd0a873aed178e 0000-0001-8834-3283 Mark Holton Mark Holton true false 017bc6dd155098860945dc6249c4e9bc 0000-0003-3177-0177 Rory Wilson Rory Wilson true false 2020-06-01 SBI Flight costs are predicted to vary with environmental conditions, and this should ultimately determine the movement capacity and distributions of large soaring birds. Despite this, little is known about how flight effort varies with environmental parameters. We deployed bio-logging devices on the world’s heaviest soaring bird, the Andean condor (Vultur gryphus), to assess the extent to which these birds can operate without resorting to powered flight. Our records of individual wingbeats in >216 hours of flight show that condors can sustain soaring across a wide range of wind and thermal conditions, only flapping for 1 % of their flight time. This is amongst the very lowest estimated movement costs in vertebrates. One bird even flew for > 5 hours without flapping, covering ~ 172 km. Overall, > 70 % of flapping flight was associated with take-offs. Movement between weak thermal updrafts at the start of the day also imposed a metabolic cost, with birds flapping towards the end of glides to reach ephemeral thermal updrafts. Nonetheless, the investment required was still remarkably low, and even in winter conditions with weak thermals, condors are only predicted to flap for ~ 2 s per km. The overall flight effort in the largest soaring birds therefore appears to be constrained by the requirements for take-off. Journal Article Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 201907360 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 0027-8424 1091-6490 13 7 2020 2020-07-13 10.1073/pnas.1907360117 COLLEGE NANME Biosciences COLLEGE CODE SBI Swansea University 2022-10-24T10:22:30.4881604 2020-06-01T20:30:18.4525245 Faculty of Science and Engineering School of Biosciences, Geography and Physics - Biosciences H. J. Williams 1 Emily Shepard 0000-0001-7325-6398 2 Mark D. Holton 3 P. A. E. Alarcón 4 R. P. Wilson 5 S. A. Lambertucci 6 Mark Holton 0000-0001-8834-3283 7 Rory Wilson 0000-0003-3177-0177 8 54372__17769__090adb3675f240c2b8903943a14db5f2.pdf 54372.pdf 2020-07-23T14:04:42.7973467 Output 1267358 application/pdf Version of Record true Copyright © 2020 the Author(s). Published by PNAS. This open access article is distributed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License 4.0 (CC BY-NC-ND). true https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/
title Physical limits of flight performance in the heaviest soaring bird
spellingShingle Physical limits of flight performance in the heaviest soaring bird
Emily Shepard
Mark Holton
Rory Wilson
title_short Physical limits of flight performance in the heaviest soaring bird
title_full Physical limits of flight performance in the heaviest soaring bird
title_fullStr Physical limits of flight performance in the heaviest soaring bird
title_full_unstemmed Physical limits of flight performance in the heaviest soaring bird
title_sort Physical limits of flight performance in the heaviest soaring bird
author_id_str_mv 54729295145aa1ea56d176818d51ed6a
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author_id_fullname_str_mv 54729295145aa1ea56d176818d51ed6a_***_Emily Shepard
0e1d89d0cc934a740dcd0a873aed178e_***_Mark Holton
017bc6dd155098860945dc6249c4e9bc_***_Rory Wilson
author Emily Shepard
Mark Holton
Rory Wilson
author2 H. J. Williams
Emily Shepard
Mark D. Holton
P. A. E. Alarcón
R. P. Wilson
S. A. Lambertucci
Mark Holton
Rory Wilson
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container_start_page 201907360
publishDate 2020
institution Swansea University
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1091-6490
doi_str_mv 10.1073/pnas.1907360117
publisher Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
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description Flight costs are predicted to vary with environmental conditions, and this should ultimately determine the movement capacity and distributions of large soaring birds. Despite this, little is known about how flight effort varies with environmental parameters. We deployed bio-logging devices on the world’s heaviest soaring bird, the Andean condor (Vultur gryphus), to assess the extent to which these birds can operate without resorting to powered flight. Our records of individual wingbeats in >216 hours of flight show that condors can sustain soaring across a wide range of wind and thermal conditions, only flapping for 1 % of their flight time. This is amongst the very lowest estimated movement costs in vertebrates. One bird even flew for > 5 hours without flapping, covering ~ 172 km. Overall, > 70 % of flapping flight was associated with take-offs. Movement between weak thermal updrafts at the start of the day also imposed a metabolic cost, with birds flapping towards the end of glides to reach ephemeral thermal updrafts. Nonetheless, the investment required was still remarkably low, and even in winter conditions with weak thermals, condors are only predicted to flap for ~ 2 s per km. The overall flight effort in the largest soaring birds therefore appears to be constrained by the requirements for take-off.
published_date 2020-07-13T04:00:52Z
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