"That's a negative Ghost Rider, the pattern is full"
Anyway, it's November now - and that means it's time for birds of all sorts to migrate South for the winter. Here in the Midwest, you can look up in the sky and see these creatures flying in huge "V" and "J" shaped formations. Incredibly, the same troop of birds fly right over the neighborhood every year. That sounds like a wonderful show of Mother Nature, and I appreciate all of that. But I can do without all the bird poop that lands on everything.
This year, as I drove near a large lake and several Canadian geese decided to drop their bombs on my windshield, I wondered why these birds fly in that "V" formation anyway. I had heard that it had something to do with aerodynamics of some sort. Also, I thought maybe it made the geese feel cool...like they were each a part of a avian gang or something.
So of course I did some research, just in case you were wondering the same thing.
A flock flying in formation is known as an echelon. Now, I think that's an incredibly cool word. It sounds like a great name for a car. "Hey, I drive a Toyota Echelon." I'm going to use echelon in all sorts of ways now in order to impress people.
There are two main reasons why birds fly in such a pattern.
One: birds are able to conserve energy, taking advantage of the updraft of air created at each birds' wingtips. A bird is able to get some free lift, and in the process not have to work as hard to stay up in the air. But what about the bird leading the charge at the point? Well, that dude is going to have to work his beak off. The two birds on the very end are also S.O.L. But as the bird tires, he'll move out of formation and they will all sort of swap positions.
Two: birds are able to communicate easier while flying in formation. Flying in this pattern allows each bird to see the others. Despite this advantage, you can often see that one bird not paying attention. Every echelon has some dummy that decides to daydream during flight and miss the turn...then he's by himself, flapping his little heart out. Hopefully, he'll catch up. If not, he'll be a lone goose. In actuality, he'll probably just find another gang to join. Many times, these idiots will go try to fly in formation with an airplane.
I think the science of aerodynamics can be utilized in all kinds of applications. Jet planes have flown in V-shaped patterns in order to take advantage of less drag. Motorcycle gangs have been seen cruising down the highway in similar fashion.