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The vortex wake of blackcaps (Sylvia atricapilla L.) measured using high-speed digital particle image velocimetry (DPIV)

Publiceringsår: 2009
Språk: Engelska
Sidor: 3365-3376
Publikation/Tidskrift/Serie: Journal of Experimental Biology
Volym: 212
Nummer: 20
Dokumenttyp: Artikel i tidskrift
Förlag: The Company of Biologists Ltd


Reconstructing the vortex wake of freely flying birds is challenging, but in the past few years, direct measurements of the wake circulation have become available for a number of species. Streamwise circulation has been measured at different positions along the span of the birds, but no measurements have been performed in the transverse plane. Recent findings from studies of bat wakes have pointed to the importance of transverse plane data for reconstructing the wake topology because important structures may be missed otherwise. We present results of high-speed DPIV measurements in the transverse plane behind freely flying blackcaps. We found novel wake structures previously not shown in birds, including wing root vortices of opposite as well as the same sign as the wing tip vortices. This suggests a more complex wake structure in birds than previously assumed and calls for more detailed studies of the flow over the wings and body, respectively. Based on measurements on birds with and without a tail we also tested hypotheses regarding the function of the tail during steady flight. We were unable to detect any differences in the wake pattern between birds with and without a tail. We conclude that the birds do not use their tail to exploit vortices shed at the wing root during the downstroke. Neither did we find support for the hypothesis that the tail should reduce the drag of the bird. The function of the tail during steady flight thus remains unclear and calls for further investigation in future studies.


  • Biological Sciences
  • vortex wake
  • flight
  • DPIV
  • aerodynamics
  • birds


  • ISSN: 1477-9145

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