By Royce Chun and Seagull(s)

Started on: 05/06/10 11:45:26
Medium: Visual

I was watching seagulls fly around and I was very interested in the way they sometimes just hover. They were able to remain in the same spot in the sky with very minimal flapping. Coincidently enough, I later saw two hawks flying around although they were pretty much just flying in loops for the most part. However, they too began to hover but not at the same time. Even though seagulls and hawks are both birds, both having wings and being able to fly, they are essentially very different. This made me wonder how differently do different species of birds fly and what causes them to fly in the specific manner.

I did some research and found that smaller birds are more likely to hover because true hovering requires a lot of flapping, which requires a lot of energy. The master of hovering would be the hummingbird, which can beat its wings up to 52 times a second. However, what sparked my interest in hovering wasn’t the rapid flapping that smaller birds do but the flapping that large birds do very little of. If hovering requires a lot of flapping and energy, how are large birds able to hover in the sky for extended periods of time? They are able to do so by flying into the headwind, which allows them to remain stationary. In a sense, the wind is doing the flying for them.

The reason for hovering is most likely because they are searching for food. Hovering would allow them to just sit in the sky and look around at their surroundings. This brought me to think of how humans can hover in the sky. Putting helicopters aside, which use propellers, I suspect that hand gliders can achieve the same or similar way of hover as large birds do. Of course, the wind would probably have to be a bit strong to accommodate the weight of the human and the hand glider. If this could be done, I think it would be fascinating to do and watch in a controlled environment like the way indoor skydiving works.

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