Researchers Andrew Biewener and David Williams of Harvard University have uncovered the reason for the seemingly impeccable flight abilities of pigeons – they can make choices on what flying technique to follow when faced with an obstacle.
Scientists and engineers have studied the flight patterns of pigeons, which, despite a great presence in the city where major unnatural path blocks are present like buildings and cars, rarely crash compared to other birds like robins.
The duo set up an area with video cameras and pre-planted obstacles made of plastic pipes, which the pigeons have to fly over in order to get their meal. Upon review of the videos, the two researchers observed that the pigeons perform two techniques when passing through an obstacle. The more amazing part is how the pigeons are able to decide on which technique is the better choice, based on the distance of the obstacle they had to pass through, according to Phys.Org.
The pigeons had to scrunch their bodies in order to pass through the obstacles. However, for obstacles with a distance of at least half a wing apart, the pigeons opted to lift their wings as if to flap, but when they approached the obstacle, their wings “paused” so that they didn’t hit the plastic pipes. When the pipes were much closer, the pigeons opted to pull their wings into their body – a technique that presents a higher chance of losing altitude, but greatly protects the birds from wing damage.
Biewener and Williams believe that the ability of the pigeons to choose what technique to follow is a deliberate act. This means the birds are able to intelligently made a decision before passing through the obstacles, which is something rare since birds in general are not known to be an “intelligent” species.
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