Why do geese fly in a V? Because it would be too hard to fly in
an S! Just kidding. Scientists have determined that the V-shaped
formation that geese use when migrating serves two important purposes:
First, it conserves their energy. Each bird flies slightly above
the bird in front of him, resulting in a reduction of wind resistance.
The birds take turns being in the front, falling back when they
get tired. In this way, the geese can fly for a long time before
they must stop for rest. The authors of a 2001 Nature article stated that pelicans that fly alone beat their wings more frequently and have higher heart rates than those that fly in formation. It follows that birds that fly in formation glide more often and reduce energy expenditure (Weimerskirch, 2001).
The second benefit to the V formation is that it is easy to keep
track of every bird in the group. Flying in formation may assist with the communication and coordination within the group. Fighter pilots often use this
formation for the same reason.
of Geese. This website from Oklahoma State Department
of Animal Science contains pictures, descriptions, and
breeds of geese.
This site is an "online bibliographic search system,
devoted entirely to the primary scientific literature
geese. Currently consisting of ca. 2700 references (mostly
papers and thesis titles)..."
Basics. The National Park Service provides the basics
of animal migration along with a list of references in this
American Migration Flyaway. The Nutty Bird Watcher website
provides information about the different kinds of North
American migration patterns along with maps.
- NASA'S Autonomous Formation Flight: Follow the leader and save fuel.
This October 29, 2001 press release provides information about NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center's Autonomous Formation Flight (AFF) project
Autonomous Flight Formation is surpassing project's goals. This article from NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center
in Edwards California discusses the findings of the Autonomous
Flight Formation Project.
Robert. Birdflight: An illustrated study of birds' aerial
mastery. New York, Facts on File, c1990. 160 p.
Michael. On the wings of a north wind: the waterfowl
and wetlands of America's inland flyways. Harrisburg,
PA, Stackpole books, c1991. 161 p.
F. Reed. Wing movement and positioning for aerodynamic benefit
by Canada geese flying formation. Canadian journal of
zoology, v. 67, March 1989, p. 585-589. Also available online at http://jeb.biologists.org/cgi/content/abstract/128/1/445.
- Heppner, Frank H. Avian Flight Formations. Bird-Banding, v. 45, Spring 1974, p. 160-169.
P.B.S., and C.A. Schollenberger. Formation flight
Science, 168, May 22, 1970, p. 1003-1005.
Bobbie. How birds fly. New York, Crabtree, c1998.
32 p. (Juvenile)
Frank S. Waterfowl: Ducks, geese, and swans. San
Diego, Sea World Press, c1979. 399 p.
more print resources...
Search on "geese,"
or "geese flying"
in the Library of Congress Online
flying in formation.. Photo
the NASA Web site.
Lesser Canada Geese in Flight by Donna Dewhurst. From the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Digital Library.
Geese in flight / Menke, Dave, n.d., U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service National Digital Library.
Future fliers lined up next to their protective mother. Photo courtesy of V. Cavallo.
Aircraft flying a test point for the Autonomous Formation Flight project over California's Mojave Desert. From the NASA Dryden Flight
Research Center Web site.