Scientists Finally Figured Out How This Master Flyer Stays Aloft for So Long
Frigatebirds are truly unique when it comes to winged animals. These expert hunters have great eyesight, incredible flying abilities, and can spend months aloft without landing.
How do these feathered friends do it? After some extensive research, scientists have finally come up with a few answers.Scientists already knew these birds could do incredible things; they just didn’t understand how frigatebirds could fly for months at a time. It turns out that frigatebirds understand wind currents really well, and their bodies are well-suited for the task.
Researchers outfitted several of these birds with lightweight transmitters that gauged their flight patterns, wing beat frequency, and heart rate. What ornithologists found out utterly amazed them during the two-year study.
Young frigatebirds can stay in the air for two months at a time without landing or touching the ground. During the study, researchers noted that these birds can glide on air currents, barely flapping their wings to conserve energy, between 98 feet and a whopping 6,500 feet above sea level. They even know to avoid the doldrums, or equatorial regions where unpredictable winds may suddenly turn too light to keep these huge birds in the air. The average distance covered by frigatebirds in one day is 255 miles in the air over open ocean. One youngster flew an astonishing 34,000 miles over 185 days with breaks of no longer than four days.
Lead researcher Henri Weimerskirch of the National Center for Scientific Research in France said, “There is no other bird species like them.” Frigatebirds can fly 40 miles without flapping their wings once. They ride air currents up and down without flapping, either, to conserve energy. Food may not happen for days at a time, so these birds need keen eyesight to spot fish on the surface of the ocean.
Even more amazing is the fact that frigatebirds are the only waterbirds without waterproof feathers. If they get wet, they drown. When they dive down to get food, only the sharp, pointy beak of the frigatebird enters the water. As soon as the bird captures a meal, it immediately flies back up to catch another updraft of wind. These creatures have massive, 7-foot wingspans to accomplish this with very little effort.Frigatebirds are just one amazing bird species on Earth that deserves closer attention due to its extraordinary flying capabilities.
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