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Flight

There seems to be great extremes in the flight capability of birds, some can:

Generally, however, most birds fly at 15-50 km/h (about 10-30 miles per hour) and at altitudes of less than 150 metres (about 500 feet), to go higher requires more energy and greater exposure to stronger, colder winds and birds of prey. This is a compromise that involves maximising distances and minimising metabolic rates, which in turn determines their energy requirements and how much food they must find and eat.

Typical Flying Speeds
Species Speed
Blue Tit 29 kmh (17 mph)
House Sparrow 29-40 kmh (17-24 mph)
Starling 32-36 kmh (19-22 mph)
Sparrowhawk 43 kmh (26 mph)
Wood Pigeon 61 kmh (37 mph)
Mallard 65 kmh (39 mph)

The shape and size of the wings is chiefly responsible for how a bird flies and not the size of the bird itself. For example:

The skeleton of most birds is greatly modified for flight:

Interestingly, some scientists now believe that feathers evolved (see Evolution) primarily for insulation and evolved much later as flight-related features. However, while some feathers are undoubtedly the most efficient natural insulators - just think about eider down in duvets - others are ideally developed for flight.

So which came first, insulation or flight?


Last revision: 21 Feb 2015
Copyright © David Gains 1999-2017.
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