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slug Created with Sketch. Science Questions

Why do birds fly in a V shape?

Well, as it turns out, that impressive V formation has a lot to do with efficiency! Flocks of big birds like geese and pelicans use the least amount of effort when they fly in a V. What smart bird brains!

When scientists studied this, they found that the lead bird (at the point of the V) works the hardest, while birds behind it have an easier time. That’s because flapping wings create little swirls of air called vortices (VOHR-tuh-seez). Vortices at the wing tips flow upward, so birds flying into them get a helpful boost. Then their vortices give a boost to the next birds, and right on down the line. Worried about the lead bird getting worn out? You’ll be glad to know that birds take turns as leader. When it comes to teamwork, we can learn a lot from birds!

Art by: Rich Powell

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