How Does Albatross Use Dynamic Soaring Maneuvers to Fly?
The mighty albatross can use its huge 3.5 metre wings to circumnavigate the globe in just 46 days. But its ability to travel 10,000 miles in a single journey, without expending almost any energy, has long confounded scientists.
Now a team of researchers believe they have worked out how these majestic creatures are able to stay aloft in the skies without flapping their enormous wings. They found that once in the air, the birds performed a flying trick that seemed to involve characteristic repetitive up and down maneuvers – a technique known as ‘dynamic soaring’.
Dynamic soaring involves the birds gaining height by angling their wings while flying into the wind. The technique involves flying from the relatively windless layer close to the ocean waves into a region of much faster winds above it.
This gives the birds a boost in airspeed that allows them to soar 30 to 50 feet into the air. Then they turn, gliding with the wind to get an additional speed boost while swooping downward close to the sea waves. By repeatedly using this method, the wandering albatross can travel thousands of miles without flapping its wings.
Dynamic soaring maneuvers extract energy from that field, enabling the albatross to fly in any direction, even against the wind, with hardly any effort. How the bird extracts energy from a horizontally blowing wind, however, is a puzzle.