Scientists have found that geese flying in formation in a flock can travel around 78% further in a session than geese flying solo. Working together on the task of flying is beneficial in a number of ways:
* Aerodynamic Formation – The V formation of geese is a way that maximizes the energy expended by those flying as part of it. The bird at the front of the flock breaks the air for those flying behind it and creates a slipstream for them to be dragged along in. The birds behind also help those in front as the upward motion of their wing also creates an upward draft that propels them forward. This push/pull relationship ensures all birds in the formation benefit from the work of others.
* Rotating Leadership – Even with the pushing effect of those behind it – the front bird uses the most energy and becomes tired more quickly than others. The geese know this and instinctively rotate leadership of the flock – allowing tired birds who have used a lot of energy for the sake of the flock to take a rest and be dragged a long for a while until it is their next turn up front.
* Dropping out of the Flock – as a result of sickness or injury a bird will occasionally begin to fall away from the flock – unable to keep up. Instead of allowing this bird to fly on alone – at least two others will always drop out of the flock with it. This ensures that the injured bird will be defended and cared for until it is ready to resume flying – and that it will fly on with the benefit of flying in formation.
* Power of the Honk – From the ground the V formation of the geese is a beautiful thing to watch – serenely gliding across the sky these birds look quite majestic and peaceful. However get up into the flock and you find its quite a noisy affair with the geese constantly honking at one another. There are numerous theories about this honking and it could be partly about letting each other know where they are so there is no midair collisions) but many believe that this honking is actually about creating an environment of success and mutual encouragement.
As a result of some of these dynamics the geese can fly amazing distances without stopping for rest – so much further than if they tried to do it alone.
Reproduced from Problogger