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Analysing the intermittent flapping flight of a Manx Shearwater, Puffinus puffinus, and its sporadic use of a wave-meandering wing-sailing flight strategy. / Spivey, R.J.; Stansfield, S.; Bishop, C.M.

In: Progress in Oceanography, Vol. 125, 24.04.2014, p. 62-73.

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T1 - Analysing the intermittent flapping flight of a Manx Shearwater, Puffinus puffinus, and its sporadic use of a wave-meandering wing-sailing flight strategy

AU - Spivey, R.J.

AU - Stansfield, S.

AU - Bishop, C.M.

PY - 2014/4/24

Y1 - 2014/4/24

N2 - Flights of Manx Shearwaters over the Irish Sea were investigated using GPS (n = 6) and simultaneous high sample rate triaxial accelerometry (n = 1). This pelagic species executes flight through intermittent bursts of flapping flight interspersed with gliding phases while meandering low over the waves. To facilitate the analysis and interpretation of body-mounted accelerometry in these challenging circumstances we introduce a combined time and frequency domain technique allowing accurate separation of flapping from gliding, measurement of wing-beat frequency and determination of flapping duty cycle. Considerable fluctuations in cycle period and time-averaged flapping duty cycle were found. Our approach offered high temporal precision, which was crucial as half the flapping bursts were briefer than 0.8 s and half the cycle times shorter than 2.55 s. Flapping duty cycles exceeding 38% were likeliest for short range flights and ascending flights. At higher duty cycles, cycle time decreased and wing-beat frequency and amplitude was only moderately elevated. Near-continuous flapping was only observed during steep ascents and strong headwinds. During a long-range foraging flight with good GPS coverage duty cycles between 7% and 63% were observed. We posit that flapping was modulated in order to maintain a steady airspeed in somewhat variable wind and wave conditions as part of a complex wave-meandering wing-sailing flight strategy that was often effective in reducing locomotion costs. Periods of very low duty cycle flight appear to have benefited from instantaneous crosswinds exceeding 10 m s−1 with an estimated three-fold reduction in biomechanical power. Accelerometry offers a very practical tool for studying flight performance and the methods herein described can be readily adapted to other species that intermittently beat their wings.

AB - Flights of Manx Shearwaters over the Irish Sea were investigated using GPS (n = 6) and simultaneous high sample rate triaxial accelerometry (n = 1). This pelagic species executes flight through intermittent bursts of flapping flight interspersed with gliding phases while meandering low over the waves. To facilitate the analysis and interpretation of body-mounted accelerometry in these challenging circumstances we introduce a combined time and frequency domain technique allowing accurate separation of flapping from gliding, measurement of wing-beat frequency and determination of flapping duty cycle. Considerable fluctuations in cycle period and time-averaged flapping duty cycle were found. Our approach offered high temporal precision, which was crucial as half the flapping bursts were briefer than 0.8 s and half the cycle times shorter than 2.55 s. Flapping duty cycles exceeding 38% were likeliest for short range flights and ascending flights. At higher duty cycles, cycle time decreased and wing-beat frequency and amplitude was only moderately elevated. Near-continuous flapping was only observed during steep ascents and strong headwinds. During a long-range foraging flight with good GPS coverage duty cycles between 7% and 63% were observed. We posit that flapping was modulated in order to maintain a steady airspeed in somewhat variable wind and wave conditions as part of a complex wave-meandering wing-sailing flight strategy that was often effective in reducing locomotion costs. Periods of very low duty cycle flight appear to have benefited from instantaneous crosswinds exceeding 10 m s−1 with an estimated three-fold reduction in biomechanical power. Accelerometry offers a very practical tool for studying flight performance and the methods herein described can be readily adapted to other species that intermittently beat their wings.

U2 - 10.1016/j.pocean.2014.04.005

DO - 10.1016/j.pocean.2014.04.005

M3 - Article

VL - 125

SP - 62

EP - 73

JO - Progress in Oceanography

JF - Progress in Oceanography

SN - 0079-6611

ER -