Physics of Flight

highflyersBird News

Photo of racing pigeons landing

When racing pigeons take flight, it might look like they’re flapping their wings up and down, but if you look closer you’ll see they’re also rotating them in a forward circular motion. The up and down movement produces lift, which allows the birds to become airborne, and the forward circular motion produces thrust, which enables the bird to move forward.

While they are flying, racing pigeons use their wings and tails to help them steer, slow down, and land. In the slow motion video below, you can see the different ways racing pigeons flap their wings when flying and landing. Watch how they flare their tails to create drag, which helps them slow down and land.

What else do you notice?