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hovering diversity (was Re: Ornithurine diversity)

Dann Pigdon (dannj@alphalink.com.au) wrote:

>> I once watched a small falcon [...] It literally hung in the air
>> without beating it's wings at all by facing into the wind

And Jim Cunningham (jrccea@bellsouth.net) responded:

> Facing into the wind will not help the animal to maintain altitude.
> Something else must have been going on as well, in order to provide
> energy for hovering at constant altitude.

I fear that either your misunderstanding Dann or the birds know
something you don't.  The phenomenon is called "kiting", and I see it
all the time on the bluffs above the beaches near Santa Barbara.  The
first time I saw it I was blown away because the bird really looks
like a kite on a string...  absolutely motionless.  I'm sure that the
reality is that they're constantly making tiny adjustments just like
our legs do to hold us upright when standing still, but the
adjustments are so small the birds appear to be perfectly stationary.
I've seen it so many times now that the birds have to do something
extra to make it a show worth paying attention to.  And I've seen some
pretty good shows.  Two hawks kiting and all of a sudden one of them
supplants the other...  a bird kiting with a rodent in its talons
casually moving its foot and beak together to take a bite...

I've seen kiting away from the bluffs a couple of times but the birds
(usually red-tailed hawks, but once I actually saw a kite kite) are
always facing into a strong headwind.

Mickey P. Rowe     (mrowe@lifesci.ucsb.edu)