Synchro Puffin

Synchro Puffin should be a new Animal Olympics sport. Or should that be Animalympics? Maybe not, that was a cartoon.

Puffin - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

These two were doing a great job of beating their wings in time. People naturally walk in step with one another after a few paces. It gives a feeling of common purpose and enables easier signalling and communication without heads bobbing at different times. It’s also great for pair bonding; try holding hands while walking out of step and you’ll soon fall in step or release hands. It’s particularly amusing watching partners of very different heights trying to walk in step, with tall men taking tiny steps and short women taking giant strides.

Birds also synchronise wingbeats when they are following one another. They can sense minute changes in air pressure and beat their wings in the invisible path of the previous bird.

Puffin - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

It makes flying easier when you beat down with the downwash and up with the upwash that the lead bird has created.

Puffin - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

Following someone else’s moving air is an aerodynamic ploy Olympic cyclists would recognise. It’s hard to imagine that air is actually there, we move so easily through it, but imagine it was like treacle for a moment and you’d soon adapt your strategy to get through it by following someone else moving it out of the way for you.

Birds; far more sophisticated than we might think.

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