MAY 19, 2017 05:42 AM PDT

Some Birds Save Energy By Jumping Instead of Flying

When you think of birds, the first thing that comes to mind is how they have wings and they fly. In fact, sometimes people associate even mechanical flying machines, like helicopters and airplanes, as “birds” simply because of their purpose of flight.

On the other hand, flight isn’t the only way birds get from point A to point B; a new study in the journal Science Advances reveals how some birds use methods of hopping and stepping to conserve energy while foraging for things like insects.

Two birds found mid-leap from one branch to another during the study.

Image Credit: Diana Chin; Lentink Lab

In the case of tiny parrots, which were the main character in this study, the birds were observed by researchers as they carefully moved from branch to branch in trees every 30 seconds or so while looking for food. Rather than taking flight, however, they would hop from one branch to another.

Related: Flocks of birds use "beautiful" physics to save energy

If the branch was close enough, they wouldn’t even hop, they would just step over to it. And interestingly, when the branch was higher up than their current footing, they would beat their wings once or twice while jumping to gain height rather than taking on full-fledged flight.

“They are being very efficient with their jumps,” study lead author Dianna Chin from Stanford University notes. “It’s more efficient to push off with your legs than flap your wings. We saw that as a model of how these early birds, who couldn’t fly as well, developed their flights to get farther and farther.”

The research suggests that the tiny parrots may have adopted this behavior from their larger common ancestors, which means that perhaps the earliest bird species to walk the Earth learned this behavior as a means to conserve energy when food sources weren’t as common as today.

“This whole miniaturization would have helped them gain more and more from making these long jumps and adding in wingbeats,” Chin continued. “We saw this as a self-reinforcing mechanism that birds could use to improve their foraging flight skills by adding a bit more weight support with each wingbeat.”

The research goes on to show that perhaps it might be possible to use these physics to our own advantage in things like flying robotics. It may be possible to integrate energy savings to increase the battery life of flying machines.

Related: Study confirms that birds actually sleep while flying

Not only would these robots be more energy efficient, but they would gain an increased number of ways to get around besides flying, making them far more versatile in transportation.

Chin and her colleague(s) expect to continue their study with more bird species to see if this behavior is observed across the board or just with specific types of birds. It out to be interesting to see what they find.

Source: New Scientist

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
SEP 19, 2018
Plants & Animals
SEP 19, 2018
This African Bird is New to Science, and Conservationists Say It's Already in Trouble
Endemic to Africa’s mid-elevation forest space is the Willard’s Sooty Boubou, a bird species that, up until recently, wasn’t recognized b...
SEP 24, 2018
Plants & Animals
SEP 24, 2018
Rare Two-Headed Snake Discovered in Virginia
There are two types of people in this world; those who love snakes and those who don’t. But regardless of which group you identify with, a recent dis...
OCT 29, 2018
Plants & Animals
OCT 29, 2018
New Evidence for Climate Change-Driven Extinction in Tropical Birds
Climate change is having a profound impact on global animal populations, and as the results of a study published this week in the journal Proceedings of th...
NOV 07, 2018
Plants & Animals
NOV 07, 2018
Experts Thought This Octopus Was a Male, and it Just Had Thousands of Babies
Caretakers for what was initially thought to be a ‘male’ octopus named Octavian at the University of Georgia’s Marine Education Center an...
NOV 08, 2018
Cell & Molecular Biology
NOV 08, 2018
Ancient Animal Provides a New Window Into Tissue Cohesion
Trichoplax adhaerens has no muscles, neurons, or defined shape but still makes coordinated movement....
NOV 12, 2018
Plants & Animals
NOV 12, 2018
Newly-Discovered Tea Plant Naturally Exhibits Little or No Caffeine
Tea is perhaps one of nature’s purest flavored drinks, and it can be brewed from not much more than some hot water and lightly-processed tea plant le...
Loading Comments...