Amazing Avian Avionics

From time to time I am amazed at the flying abilities of the birds I watch. I love seeing the ponderous jumbos of the Australian bird world, the Australian Pelicans. As they come in to “land” on the water they ski for a few metres before they settle.

Watching several Wedge Tail Eagles soaring on high is nothing short of awe inspiring. At the other end of the scale are the tiny thornbills hovering at the tip of gum leaf, ready to pick off a tasty morsel for lunch. The speed and daring of a Peregrine Falcon in full stoop is well documented and has been filmed. In contrast, the flittering to and fro of the Willie Wagtail as it searches for its sustenance is flight in slow motion.

I get daily emails from several birding forums. From time to time some of the messages can be rather amusing. I’d like to quote from two posts from a few months ago. Both highlight the amazing flying abilities of the Australian Magpie.

Yesterday evening I was standing on the opposite side of the road from a thin traffic sign post. A Magpie swooped from my left side, over my head and continued at high speed downwards across the road, heading straight for the post. At the very last moment it tucked its left wing into its body (keeping the right wing fully extended) and shot past the post with about 2mm to spare.

Thanks to John for this observation.

I have been endlessly impressed by Magpie flight. We have a balcony with metal railings at work and the magpies ‘fly’ between that rails at one end with their wings closed put in a few beats, close their wings and ‘fly’ through the rails at the other end. Apart from being impressive it is completely unnecessary, since they could simply fly over the rails.

Thanks to Milburn for the second observation.

Australian Magpie

Australian Magpie


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