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Re: Tail feathers

On Sun, 21 Jun 1998, Matthew Troutman wrote:

> >2). Are tail feathers really needed to fly? I know birds do use them to
> >break and manevor, but just to fly around, is it really needed? The
> >reason I ask is because of Pterodactyloid pterosaurs don't have tails,
> >and I've often wondered how they would manever with out them. 
> Gatesy and Dial* have done lots of work on this issue. 

Also check out Baumel, J.J. 1988 _Functional Morphology of the Tail
Apparatus of the Pigeon (Columba livia) pub by Springer-Verlag.

Author says: "I believe that the tail's function in braking is nearly as
important as its function in providing lift.  The braking action
contributes to maneuverability...(through trees and underbrush)...,
including making sharp turns and controlled precision landings."

And by the way, the ability of birds like pigeons to make vertical
escapes--made possible by the tail--gives them some immunity to predation.
Inasmuch as they can allow predators to get closer, they can also spend
more time foraging.