A new study shed light on how the world’s largest soaring bird stay aloft for hours without flapping its wings.
For the first time, a team of scientists strapped a recording equipment they called “daily diaries” to eight Andean condors in Patagonia to record their wingbeat over more than 250 hours of flight time.
The Andean condor has a wingspan stretching to 10 feet and weighs up to 33 pounds. Though they are considered to be the heaviest soaring board in the world, they fly more than five hours, covering more than 100 miles, without flapping its wings once.
“Condors are expert pilots – but we just hadn’t expected they would be quite so expert,” Emily Shepard, a study co-author and biologist at Swansea University in Wales, told WKYC Studios.
“The finding that they basically almost never beat their wings and just soar is mind-blowing,” added David Lentink, an expert in bird flight at Stanford University, and also involved in the research.
There are two types of flight: flapping flight and soaring flight. Bret Tobalske, a bird expert at the University of Montana and who was not involved in the study, explained the difference between the two can be compared to peddling a bicycle uphill versus coasting downhill.
Sergio Lambertucci, a study co-author at the National University of Comahue in Argentina, said the Andean condor’s skill at soaring is essential for their lifestyle, since they require hours of circling high mountains to look for a meal.
“When you see condors circling, they are taking advantage of those thermal uplifts,” he said.
Their study was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
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