How Andean condors fly, new research


This November 2018 video says about itself:

Meet the Majestic Andean Condor, one of the world’s largest flying bird, considered a sacred animal for the Incas.

Andean condors are massive birds, among the largest in the world that are able to fly. Because they are so heavy (up to 33 pounds), these birds prefer to live in windy áreas, where they can glide on air currents with little effort.

From Swansea University in Wales:

Experts’ high-flying study reveals secrets of soaring birds

New research has revealed when it comes to flying the largest of birds rely on air currents, not flapping to move around

July 14, 2020

New research has revealed when it comes to flying the largest of birds don’t rely on flapping to move around. Instead they make use of air currents to keep them airborne for hours at a time.

The Andean condor — the world’s heaviest soaring bird which can weigh in at up to 15kg — actually flaps its wings for one per cent of its flight time.

The study is part of a collaboration between Swansea University’s Professor Emily Shepard and Dr Sergio Lambertucci in Argentina, that uses high-tech flight-recorders on Andean condors. These log each and every wingbeat and twist and turn in flight as condors search for food.

The team wanted to find out more about how birds’ flight efforts vary depending on environmental conditions. Their findings will help to improve understanding about large birds’ capacity for soaring and the specific circumstances that make flight costly.

During the study, the researchers discovered that more than 75 per cent of the condors’ flapping was associated with take-off.

However, once in the sky condors can sustain soaring for long periods in a wide range of wind and thermal conditions — one bird managed to clock up five hours without flapping, covering around 172 km or more than 100 miles.

The findings are revealed in a new paper Physical limits of flight performance in the heaviest soaring bird, which has just been published by Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Dr Hannah Williams, now at the Max Planck Institute for Animal Behaviour, said: “Watching birds from kites to eagles fly, you might wonder if they ever flap.

“This question is important, because by the time birds are as big as condors, theory tells us they are dependent on soaring to get around.

“Our results revealed the amount the birds flapped didn’t change substantially with the weather.

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