The role of wingbeat frequency and amplitude in flight power
Body-mounted accelerometers provide a new prospect for estimating power use in flying birds, as the signal varies with the two major kinematic determinants of aerodynamic power: wingbeat frequency and amplitude. Yet wingbeat frequency is sometimes used as a proxy for power output in isolation. There is, therefore, a need to understand which kinematic parameter birds vary and whether this is predicted by flight mode (e.g. accelerating, ascending/descending flight), speed or morphology. We investigate this using high-frequency acceleration data from (i) 14 species flying in the wild, (ii) two species flying in controlled conditions in a wind tunnel and (iii) a review of experimental and field studies. While wingbeat frequency and amplitude were positively correlated, R2 values were generally low, supporting the idea that parameters can vary independently. Indeed, birds were more likely to modulate wingbeat amplitude for more energy-demanding flight modes, including climbing and take-off. Nonetheless, the striking variability, even within species and flight types, highlights the complexity of describing the kinematic relationships, which appear sensitive to both the biological and physical context. Notwithstanding this, acceleration metrics that incorporate both kinematic parameters should be more robust proxies for power than wingbeat frequency alone.
Authors: Krishnan, Krishnamoorthy, Garde, Baptiste, Bennison, Ashley ORCID record for Ashley Bennison, Cole, Nik C., Cole, Emma-L., Darby, Jamie, Elliott, Kyle H., Fell, Adam, Gómez-Laich, Agustina, de Grissac, Sophie, Jessopp, Mark, Lempidakis, Emmanouil, Mizutani, Yuichi, Prudor, Aurélien, Quetting, Michael, Quintana, Flavio, Robotka, Hermina, Roulin, Alexandre, Ryan, Peter G., Schalcher, Kim, Schoombie, Stefan, Tatayah, Vikash, Tremblay, Fred, Weimerskirch, Henri, Whelan, Shannon, Wikelski, Martin, Yoda, Ken, Hedenström, Anders, Shepard, Emily L. C.