Image for Air display

Air display

Duration: 01:28

Flying in formation saves energy. A big bird like a pelican creates a trail of turbulence in the air and this can give a following bird some lift. The effect is greatest directly behind a bird's wing tip so that is the best place for a following bird to fly. Pelicans also save about 20 per cent of their energy by mixing flapping with gliding. Aerodynamically, it is better for a bird to time its flaps with those of the bird ahead. This is why pelicans give such amazing displays of synchronized flying.

Available since: Fri 2 Dec 2011

This clip is from

The Life of Birds The Mastery of Flight

2/10 Analysing how different species have evolved unique skills.

First broadcast: 12 Jun 2007

Image for The Mastery of Flight Not currently available on BBC iPlayer

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