Ibises flying in formation take it in turns to ride the slipstream

Ibis birds at the the Australian Open in Sydney.Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

When migrating northern bald ibises fly together, they take it in turns to occupy the toughest position at the front of the V formation, a study has found

This gives all the birds a chance to relax and enjoy riding the slipstream as well, say scientists.

Bernhard Voelkl of the University of Oxford and colleagues investigated why this cooperation persists when a formation’s lead bird does not receive any aerodynamic benefits.

The authors tracked a flock of 14 critically endangered juvenile Northern bald ibis (Geronticus eremita), which were hand-reared by human foster parents.

Global positioning system loggers were attached to each bird to record geographical location, velocity and position within the flock.

The birds changed position frequently within the flock, flying in formations of two to 12 birds.

Overall, individuals spent an average of 32% of their time in the updraft produced by another bird and a proportional amount of time leading a formation.

The research is published in the journal PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences).

NOW WATCH: Briefing videos

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.