Minding the gap: in-flight body awareness in birds

Schiffner, Ingo, Vo, Hong D., Bhagavatula, Partha S. and Srinivasan, Mandyam V. (2014) Minding the gap: in-flight body awareness in birds. Frontiers in Zoology, 11 1: 64.1-64.9. doi:10.1186/s12983-014-0064-y

Author Schiffner, Ingo
Vo, Hong D.
Bhagavatula, Partha S.
Srinivasan, Mandyam V.
Title Minding the gap: in-flight body awareness in birds
Journal name Frontiers in Zoology   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 1742-9994
Publication date 2014-09
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1186/s12983-014-0064-y
Open Access Status DOI
Volume 11
Issue 1
Start page 64.1
End page 64.9
Total pages 9
Place of publication London, United Kingdom
Publisher BioMed Central
Collection year 2015
Language eng
Formatted abstract
Introduction: When birds fly in cluttered environments, they must tailor their flight to the gaps that they traverse. We trained budgerigars, Melopsittacus undulatus, to fly through a vertically oriented gap of variable width, to investigate their ability to perform evasive manoeuvres during passage.

Results: When the gap was wider than their wingspan, the birds passed through it without interrupting their flight. When traversing narrower gaps, however, the birds interrupted their normal flight by raising their wings or tucking them against the body, to prevent contact with the flanking panels. Our results suggest that the birds are capable of estimating the width of the gap in relation to their wingspan with high precision: a mere 6% reduction in gap width causes a complete transition from normal flight to interrupted flight. Furthermore, birds with shorter wingspans display this transition at narrower gap widths.

Conclusion: We conclude from our experiments that the birds are highly aware of their individual body size and use precise, anticipatory, visually based judgements to control their flight in complex environments.
Keyword Birds
Body awareness
Obstacle avoidance
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ

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