Flight Speeds among Bird Species: Allometric and Phylogenetic Effects

Journal Article

Title: Flight Speeds among Bird Species: Allometric and Phylogenetic Effects
Publication Date:
August 01, 2007
Journal: Plos Biology
Volume: 5
Issue: 8
Pages: 1656-1662
Publisher: Plos Biology

Document Access

Website: External Link
Attachment: Access File
(250 KB)


Alerstam, T.; Rosen, M.; Backman, J.; Ericson, P.; Hellgren, O. (2007). Flight Speeds among Bird Species: Allometric and Phylogenetic Effects. Plos Biology, 5(8), 1656-1662.

Analysing the variation in flight speed among bird species is important in understanding flight. We tested if the cruising speed of different migrating bird species in flapping flight scales with body mass and wing loading according to predictions from aerodynamic theory and to what extent phylogeny provides an additional explanation for variation in speed. Flight speeds were measured by tracking radar for bird species ranging in size from 0.01 kg (small passerines) to 10 kg (swans). Equivalent airspeeds of 138 species ranged between 8 and 23 m/s and did not scale as steeply in relation to mass and wing loading as predicted. This suggests that there are evolutionary restrictions to the range of flight speeds that birds obtain, which counteract too slow and too fast speeds among bird species with low and high wing loading, respectively. In addition to the effects of body size and wing morphology on flight speed, we also show that phylogeny accounted for an important part of the remaining speed variation between species. Differences in flight apparatus and behaviour among species of different evolutionary origin, and with different ecology and flight styles, are likely to influence cruising flight performance in important ways. 

Find Tethys on InstagramFind Tethys on FacebookFind Tethys on Twitter
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.