Andean condors, at 10kg or more, are among the world’s heaviest flying birds. Once birds get this big, the energetic costs of flapping are so high they instead rely on currents of rising air to travel long distances.
My colleagues and I are experts in bird flight and we asked just how little flapping these condors and other soaring birds can get away with, and if there are particular environments or weather conditions that are more costly to fly in. Very little is known about what actually makes these birds work, and only recently have we been able to use tagging technology to spy on them in the sky.
A talented colleague of mine at the University of Swansea developed high-tech “flight recorders” for our team to attach to condors and record each and every wingbeat as they searched for food. The results of our five-year project in Argentina are now published in the journal PNAS. MORE
Header image: Ugo Mellone, Author provided.