You’d think that with all the flocks of birds navigating the sky, there would be the occasional head-on collision. But birds are highly skilled aviators with fast reflexes -- and a good understanding of what to do when two are on the same flight path. A recent study at Australia’s University of Queensland found that birds appear to know to veer right if another is headed straight at them.
The researchers tested seven male budgerigars (also known as “budgies” or parakeets) in a 70-foot (21.3 m) tunnel over a four-day period, and recorded zero mishaps. About 85 percent of the time, the birds veered right, and often adjusted their altitude to avoid mid-air crashes.
The aerial rules of engagement:
- In the study, the birds rarely flew at the same height, suggesting that individual birds may have specific altitude preferences.
- Interestingly, aircraft pilots are taught to veer to the right when they perceive an imminent head-on collision with another aircraft, said Mandyam V. Srinivasan, head of the research group.
- Birds are more prone to collisions with man-made obstacles. Sometimes, birds fail to see wires, especially near dawn or at night. Reflections from glass windows can also fool them, sometimes with deadly results.