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The V Formation of Bird Migration

Guest Author - Lisa Shea

Many birds, including the Canadian Goose, use a V formation when migrating. Why do they fly in this shape? What benefit does it bring?

Birds who fly have bodies designed to be efficient in flight. Their head, body and wing shape help them propel themselves through the air. Birds that cover long distances have evolved over the years to have shapes which help make this easy, and they have figured out techniques to make their flight as easy as possible.

Many Canadian Geese, for example, fly thousands of miles between their Mexico wintering spots to their summer homes in Canada and Alaska. They can reach up to 60mph during their flights, and can reach an altitude of 8,000 feet.

As cyclists know, the person at the head of a pack hits the air in front of them with the most force. That lead rider 'breaks up' the air, which then flows over the rest of the group more easily. The pack in cycling is called a "peloton" and the riders behind the leader are "drafting", taking advantage of both the lack of air resistance in front and the push they get from the swirling vortexes of air behind them.



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In the same way, the lead bird 'breaks up' the wall of air that the flock flies into. The swirling air caused by the lead bird's movements then help to push along the birds behind it, and so on. The V formation gives every bird behind the lead bird the same sort of assistance and push.

Because this is hard work for the lead bird, the lead 'drops back' after a short while so another bird takes on the work of the lead. It has been shown that birds in the V formation can fly a full 70% further than a bird flying alone, because of the much easier flying the V formation provides.

That is not the only reason for the V, however. The birds often do not fly close enough to realize the full benefit of that shape. The V also gives the geese the ability to watch each other and communicate about likely landing locations. They honk to each other regularly while they fly.

Geese are very loyal birds. A male and female will mate for life. A family group will stay together even within the flock. Often when you watch a V formation, you will see a group of birds that stays as a unit, breaking off together when the flock comes down to land. If a bird in the flock becomes injured during migration and can't keep up with the V, a few family members or flock mates will go down with the injured bird to keep it safe while it recuperates. Only when it is ready to fly again (or succumbs to its injuries) will they take off again, looking for a new flock to join up with.

Canadian Geese Information
Canadian Geese or Canada Geese?
Canadian Geese Fall Flock Photos
Canadian Geese Desktop Images
Food for a Canadian Goose
The V Formation of Bird Migration
Where Do Canadian Geese Migrate?
Predators of the Canadian Goose
Deterrents for Canadian Geese
Canadian Goose Jigsaw Puzzle
Birds that Mate for Life
Canadian Goose Themed Presents

The Birding Encyclopedia


Fly Away Home is a great movie about Canadian Goose migration!
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Content copyright © 2014 by Lisa Shea. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Lisa Shea. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact BellaOnline Administration for details.

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