Monday, 2 July 2012

Bar-headed geese in high-flying wind tunnel test

Video footage of bar-headed geese in high altitude wind tunnel experiments has been released by researchers.
The flights were captured in super slow-motion by the University of British Columbia.
During "test flights", birds wear masks they are trained to wear as goslings, which provide them with oxygen levels that simulate high altitude.
The masks also collect gas that the birds breathe out, measuring how much precious oxygen they use in flight.
BBC Nature spoke to lead researcher Dr Jessica Meir at the Society for Experimental Biology's annual meeting in Salzburg.
Dr Meir explained that a great deal of research into the "remarkable geese" revealed how the birds are specially adapted to fly at extremely high altitude.
Their blood, for example, can carry far more oxygen to their muscles than other birds.
But while most studies have focused on the birds while they are at rest, Dr Meir wanted to create a "picture of oxygen delivery while the bird is flying".
Fortunately for her, the university's engineering department has a wind tunnel wide enough for a goose - with a wingspan of more than 1.5m - to fly in.
Tracking studies have recorded the birds at heights of 6,000m (just under 20,000 feet) - something they need to achieve in order to complete their migration through the Himalayas.

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