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Re: flocking

Andrea Kirk wrote:
> I'm sure most people have seen gigantic
> flocks of starlings or blackbirds that, while flying, may all suddenly
> wheel and turn in unison.  What allows them to communicate this sort of
> action to one another? 

If they are anything like schoals of fish they probably detect the
faint changes in air direction/pressure caused by birds turning
directly in front of them. Geese (and other large birds) usually
fly in V-formation (or something similar) so that each can avoid
having to fly in the others wake, and apparently it also makes
flying easier and less strenuous (like dolphins riding a boat's wake,
or a cyclist friend of mine who used to ride in the wake of the
school bus). I suspect that each bird, while trying to fly in the 
"sweet spot" behind other birds, changes direction in order to maintain
this position (which itself would imply some sort of lead bird or birds
making the decision, just as herds of sheep or horses tend to follow
a lead animal). This is my opinion based on what I've heard and read,
so don't take it as gospel.

        Dann Pigdon
        GIS Archaeologist
        Melbourne, Australia

        Australian Dinosaurs: