Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

How birds of different feathers flock together

Date:
March 7, 2013
Source:
University of Cambridge
Summary:
When different species of birds flock together, their flight formations are determined by social dynamics both between and within species.

Circles indicate paired flight of jackdaws.
Credit: Jolle Jolles

When different species of birds flock together, their flight formations are determined by social dynamics both between and within species.

New research from the Universities of Cambridge and Exeter reveals for the first time that, contrary to current models used to explain the movement of flocks, the differences between bird species and social relationships between individuals play a critical role in determining the dynamics of mixed-species flocks.

The unified behaviour of bird flocks has puzzled scientists for hundreds of years. One naturalist from the turn of the century even suggested telepathy may be involved. There have since been more logical explanations, including mathematical models that show that repeated interactions among individuals following simple rules can generate coordinated group movements. However, these models usually rely on the assumption that individuals within groups are identical and interact independently, which may not reflect reality.

Jolle Jolles, a PhD student at the University of Cambridge's Department of Zoology and author of the paper, said: "Spectacular collective behaviour can be found in a large range of animal species, and we now know that often these complex coordinated group movements may be the result of individuals following simple rules. However, rarely are the individual characteristics and social relationships within them taken into account. Our research highlights that these striking displays of group behaviour are much more complex."

By analysing high-resolution photographs of mixed flocks of rooks and jackdaws (both from the corvid family), the researchers found that rather than individuals interacting in a consistent fashion throughout the flock, interactions depended on social dynamics between the different species as well as relationships within a species.

The researchers discovered that birds prefer to fly close to members of their own species, and that the larger and more dominant rooks take the lead by flying near the front of flocks. Additionally, the lifelong, monogamous pair bonds that are characteristic of both species seem to be reflected in flight, as birds often fly particularly close to a single, same-species partner.

Dr Alex Thornton, principal investigator of the Cambridge Jackdaw Project, now at the University of Exeter and author of the paper, said: "Together, our findings demonstrate that to understand the structure of groups -- such as bird flocks -- we need to consider the characteristics and relationships of the individuals within them."

The research, which was funded by the British Ecological Society and the BBSRC, was published in the journal Animal Behaviour.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Cambridge. The original article is licensed under a Creative Commons Licence. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Jolle W. Jolles, Andrew J. King, Andrea Manica, Alex Thornton. Heterogeneous structure in mixed-species corvid flocks in flight. Animal Behaviour, 2013; DOI: 10.1016/j.anbehav.2013.01.015

Cite This Page:

University of Cambridge. "How birds of different feathers flock together." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 March 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130307092340.htm>.
University of Cambridge. (2013, March 7). How birds of different feathers flock together. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130307092340.htm
University of Cambridge. "How birds of different feathers flock together." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130307092340.htm (accessed September 30, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

California University Designs Sustainable Winery

California University Designs Sustainable Winery

Reuters - US Online Video (Sep. 27, 2014) Amid California's worst drought in decades, scientists at UC Davis design a sustainable winery that includes a water recycling system. Vanessa Johnston reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Argentina Worries Over Decline of Soybean Prices

Argentina Worries Over Decline of Soybean Prices

AFP (Sep. 27, 2014) The drop in price of soy on the international market is a cause for concern in Argentina, as soybean exports are a major source of income for Latin America's third largest economy. Duration: 01:10 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Mama Bear, Cubs Hang out in California Backyard

Mama Bear, Cubs Hang out in California Backyard

Reuters - US Online Video (Sep. 27, 2014) A mama bear and her two cubs climb trees, wrestle and take naps in the backyard of a Monrovia, California home. Vanessa Johnston reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
'Crazy' Climate Forces Colombian Farmers to Adapt

'Crazy' Climate Forces Colombian Farmers to Adapt

AFP (Sep. 26, 2014) Once upon a time, farming was a blissfully low-tech business on Colombia's northern plains. Duration: 02:05 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins