How do Birds Fly

"How do birds fly?" is an age old question that humans have probably pondered ever since people noticed birds in the sky. The question may have been asked with a sense of jealousy or, perhaps, a sense of wonder. Today, we have a better understanding than ever of how birds fly, although we may still wish that we could freely take to the air.

How do Birds Fly     
Most birds are literally built to fly. They can't weigh too much or their wings would have to be quite large. Therefore, birds have fewer bones than other animals. Birds' bones are hollow or might be fused. If the bones are fused, the birds require fewer muscles, which results in less weight.

Feathers also contribute to flying. In addition to catching air, feathers help form the shape of the birds' wings.

The formation of birds' wings is crucial to birds' ability to fly. Birds' wings are hinged, which allows the birds to fold their wings or extend them as needed.

Tails are also part of the flying equation. Birds use tails like rudders in boats to help turn and to stay balanced. Tails can also be used to create drag by pointing the feathers downwards to help the birds to slow down or to land.

If you have ever rolled down the window of your car while someone is driving, put your hand outside perpendicular to the ground with your fingers together and then tipped your hand up, you understand the basic concept of lift. Birds move forward as quickly as possible and flap their wings in order to create their own lift. In addition, the shape of the wings provides birds with thrust, or forward motion.

Once airborne, some birds can glide without flapping their wings for long distances. Birds take advantage of thermals. Thermals consist of warm air, which rises. Other kinds of updrafts that birds use to glide include trade winds or obstruction winds. Obstruction winds are winds that are forced up because they have run into something solid such as a cliff or a tall building.

When birds can't glide, they fly by fully extending their wings on the down-flap. This gives birds the most bang for their buck as far as surface area when pushing air downwards. Birds have to reduce that surface area on the upswing, so their wings fold in towards their bodies.

Airplanes have it easy in comparison to birds.

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