Low speed maneuvering flight of the rose-breasted cockatoo (Eolophus roseicapillus). II. Inertial and aerodynamic reorientation

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The reconfigurable, flapping wings of birds allow for both inertial and aerodynamic modes of reorientation. We found evidence that both these modes play important roles in the low speed turning flight of the rose-breasted cockatoo Eolophus roseicapillus. Using three-dimensional kinematics recorded from six cockatoos making a 90 degrees turn in a flight corridor, we developed predictions of inertial and aerodynamic reorientation from estimates of wing moments of inertia and flapping arcs, and a blade-element aerodynamic model. The blade-element model successfully predicted weight support (predicted was 88+/-17% of observed, N=6) and centripetal force (predicted was 79+/-29% of observed, N=6) for the maneuvering cockatoos and provided a reasonable estimate of mechanical power. The estimated torque from the model was a significant predictor of roll acceleration (r(2)=0.55, P<0.00001), but greatly overestimated roll magnitude when applied with no roll damping. Non-dimensional roll damping coefficients of approximately -1.5, 2-6 times greater than those typical of airplane flight dynamics (approximately -0.45), were required to bring our estimates of reorientation due to aerodynamic torque back into conjunction with the measured changes in orientation. Our estimates of inertial reorientation were statistically significant predictors of the measured reorientation within wingbeats (r(2) from 0.2 to 0.37, P<0.0005). Components of both our inertial reorientation and aerodynamic torque estimates correlated, significantly, with asymmetries in the activation profile of four flight muscles: the pectoralis, supracoracoideus, biceps brachii and extensor metacarpi radialis (r(2) from 0.27 to 0.45, P<0.005). Thus, avian flight maneuvers rely on production of asymmetries throughout the flight apparatus rather than in a specific set of control or turning muscles.


Hedrick, T LUsherwood, J RBiewener, A AengResearch Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.England2007/05/23 09:00J Exp Biol. 2007 Jun;210(Pt 11):1912-24.