Differential pressure measurements offer a new approach for studying the aerodynamics of bird flight. Measurements from differential pressure sensors are combined to form a dynamic pressure map for eight sites along and across the wings, and for two sites across the tail, of pigeons flying between two perches. The confounding influence of acceleration on the pressure signals is shown to be small for both wings and tail. The mean differential pressure for the tail during steady, level flight was 25.6 Pa, which, given an angle of attack for the tail of 47.6 degrees , suggests the tail contributes 7.91% of the force required for weight support, and requires a muscle-mass specific power of 19.3 W kg(-1) for flight to overcome its drag at 4.46 m s(-1). Differential pressures during downstroke increase along the wing length, to 300-400 Pa during take-off and landing for distal sites. Taking the signals obtained from five sensors sited along the wing at feather bases as representative of the mean pressure for five spanwise elements at each point in time, and assuming aerodynamic forces act within the x-z plane (i.e. no forces in the direction of travel) and perpendicular to the wing during downstroke, we calculate that 74.5% of the force required to support weight was provided by the wings, and that the aerodynamic muscle-mass specific power required to flap the wings was 272.7 W kg(-1).
Usherwood, James RHedrick, Tyson LMcGowan, Craig PBiewener, Andrew AengComparative StudyEngland2005/01/07 09:00J Exp Biol. 2005 Jan;208(Pt 2):355-69.