Flight efficiency in Northern Bald Ibises

Birds face high energy demands during their flight. Some species alternate between flapping and gliding, which should allow them to save energy. We equipped hand-raised Northern Bald Ibises (Geronticus eremita) with data loggers during human-guided migration. We monitored the position of the birds, wingbeats, overall dynamic body acceleration (ODBA), and heart rates as a proxy for energy expenditure. The energy expenditure was significantly affected by the length of flapping and gliding bouts. At a gliding proportion of about 20%, we measured a maximum of 11% saving based on heart rate measurement. This study provides empirical evidence that intermittent flight is energetically beneficial and can reduce the high costs of flights.

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Energy consumption as determined by heart rate and overall dynamic body acceleration (ODBA) decreases as the duration of the gliding phases increases

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