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Flight and Feathers

Gliding

Some birds can glide through the air without flapping their wings for periods of time, but like a paper airplane, most lose height quickly due to "drag."

Laysan_AlbatrossLaysan Albatross

This albatross has very long and narrow wings that are well-adapted for the strong, constant winds over parts of the ocean. Its up-and-down flight style allows it to use small differences in wind speed to go long distances without using a lot of energy.

Soaring

Black_VultureBlack Vulture
Eagles and some hawks and vultures can use their long, rounded wings to soar with little effort. The slotted feathers at the end of their wings help catch rising air currents and provide additional lift.

 

Rapid Takeoff

Many of our familiar songbirds, as well as some grouse and quail, have short rounded wings that are easy to maneuver.

Speckled_PigeonsSpeckled Pigeon

Watch these startled pigeons take off quickly. Their short, elliptical wings are excellent for turning as well.

 


High-Speed

Antarctic_TernAntarctic Tern

The pointy-tipped and backswept wings of this tern are excellent for rapid flapping flight.

 



Hovering

Magnificent_HummingbirdMagnificent Hummingbird

Watch this hummingbird move in and back out again as it hovers in place at a feeder. In addition to the wing shape, this bird's nerves and muscles are specially adapted for incredibly fast movement.