Andean condor soars without flapping its wings 99 per cent of the time
The Associated Press · Posted: Jul 14, 2020 8:58 AM ET | Last Updated: 1 hour ago
The Andean condor has a wingspan stretching to three metres and weighs up to 15 kilograms, making it the heaviest soaring bird alive today. (Alvaro Moya Riffo)
A new study sheds light on just how efficiently the world’s largest soaring bird rides air currents to stay aloft for hours without flapping its wings.
The Andean condor has a wingspan stretching to three metres and weighs up to 15 kilograms, making it the heaviest soaring bird alive today.
For the first time, a team of scientists strapped recording equipment they called “daily diaries” to eight condors in South America’s Patagonia region to record each wingbeat over more than 250 hours of flight time.
Incredibly, the birds spent just one per cent of their time aloft flapping their wings, mostly during takeoff. One bird flew more than five hours, covering more than 160 kilometres, without flapping its wings.
“Condors are expert pilots — but we just hadn’t expected they would be quite so expert,” said Emily Shepard, a study co-author and biologist at Swansea University in Wales.
The results were published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
“The finding that they basically almost never beat their wings and just soar is mind-blowing,” said David Lentink, an expert in bird flight at Stanford University, who was not involved in the research.