Lentink Lab Messages | Archive

Credit: Chris 73

PNAS: Birds ace visual flight control in gusts

We just published a research article in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showing that lovebirds need minimal visual information to maneuver through 45-degree gusts. A faint point light source in a dark flight corridor under moonlight conditions is sufficient. The Lovebirds aced their maneuvers in the dark just as well as they did when we offered them widefield optical flow or a visual horizon under daylight conditions, showing neither is essential. Our data analysis and models revealed that the birds flapping wings helped them orient into the wind automatically, while they control their neck to stabilize their head and orient their gaze towards the beacon that indicates the landing perch. The carefully designed study was conducted by our multidisciplinary team consisting of Dan Quinn, Daniel Kress, Eric Chang, Andrea Stein, and Michal Wegrzynski who all made key contributions to the discovery. It’s great to see postdocs, PhD, and undergraduate students succeed together answering a particularly challenging research question.