Wind may prevent seabirds from accessing their most important habitat – ScienceDaily



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We marvel at flying beasts because it seems they can access anywhere, but a first such study revealed that the wind can prevent seabirds from accessing the most important habitats: their nests.

If pilots or human animals land safely, they must monitor and respond to the wind. These ideas are well established in aeronautical engineering, but how victory affects the ability of birds to land has never been considered before.

In an article published by eLifeBiologists, including Dr. Emily Shepard of the University of Swansea, observed common loons and razorbills trying to land on their breeding cliffs on Skomer Island, Wales. They then joined Dr. Andrew Ross, a meteorologist at the University of Leeds, to assess how the number of successful and aborted landings varied with the wind and turbulence around Skomer.

Seabirds live in windy, often remote places. Many species choose to breed on steep cliffs, where nests can not be reached by terrestrial predators. Here, adults should land on small bumps, and they should do this with enough control not to dislodge their egg or cub.

While all birds landed while it was still wind, 60% of the attempts failed in a strong breeze. This increased to 80% in near winds. Razorbills, the most maneuverable of both species, were better at general landing, but the size of the "lane" was important for all birds, which could land more easily on larger edges where there is more airspace to maneuver above the landing point .

As a result, adults have to make repeated attempts at landing on windy days – something dear to these birds. In fact, mathematician Andrew Neate's modeling showed that in strong winds only 50 percent of birds likely land in the first seven attempts. These results have implications for where birds should nest, providing a clear reason for birds to colonize protected cliffs from prevailing winds.

Emily Shepard, an associate professor at Swansea University, said:

"Landing is a risky and risky process for human pilots and it was fascinating to observe the conditions that make the landing challenging for the auks.

"These birds are able to perch (and even breed) on edges of cliffs so small that their tails hang over the edge, but it was striking how the wind upset this delicate balance."

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Materials provided by University of Swansea. Note: Content can be edited by style and size.

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