The Andean Condor Can Soar 100 Miles Without Flapping
In the high, arid mountains of Patagonia, an Andean condor managed to travel more than 100 miles without flapping its wings once. This five-hour ultramarathon flight was recorded during a new study of the massive scavenger’s hyper-efficient flight, reports Christina Larson for the Associated Press.
All that efficiency is in the service of keeping all 33 pounds of the world’s heaviest soaring bird aloft. The researchers found that the massive scavengers use their ten-foot wingspans to strategically surf currents of rising air called thermals to reduce costly flapping to the bare minimum. Tiny sensors attached to eight condors revealed that across more than 250 hours in the air the birds spent just one-percent of their flight time flapping.
The study, published this week in the journal the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, also found that getting airborne in the first place accounted for a full three-quarters of the condors’ flapping, reports BBC News. The condors in the study spent around three hours a day in the air searching the Andes and their foothills for carcasses to feed on, according to the paper.