Metabolic costs of avian flight in relation to flight velocity: a study in Rose Coloured Starlings (Sturnus roseus, Linnaeus)

Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s00360-006-0063-1

Cite this article as:
Engel, S., Biebach, H. & Visser, G.H. J Comp Physiol B (2006) 176: 415. doi:10.1007/s00360-006-0063-1

Abstract

The metabolic costs of flight at a natural range of speeds were investigated in Rose Coloured Starlings (Sturnus roseus, Linnaeus) using doubly labelled water. Eight birds flew repeatedly and unrestrained for bouts of 6 h at speeds from 9 to 14 m s−1 in a low-turbulence wind tunnel, corresponding to travel distances between 200 and 300 km, respectively. This represents the widest speed range where we could obtain voluntarily sustained flights. From a subset of these flights, data on the wing beat frequency (WBF) and intermittent flight behaviour were obtained. Over the range of speeds that were tested, flight costs did not change with velocity and were on an average 8.17±0.64 W or 114 W kg−1. Body mass was the only parameter with a significant (positive) effect on flight costs, which can be described as EEf=0.741 M0.554. WBF changed slightly with speed, but correlated better with body mass. Birds showed both types of intermittent flight, undulating and bounding, but their frequencies did not systematically change with flight speed.

Keywords

Endurance flight Power curve DLW Energy metabolism Wing beat frequency 

Abbreviations

EEf

Flight energy expenditure (W)

DLW

Doubly labelled water

M

Body mass (g)

Vmr

Maximum range speed (m s−1)

Vmp

Minimum power speed (m s−1)

η

Flight muscle efficiency

IRMS

Isotope ratio mass spectrometer

WP

Size of total body water pool (mol)

kd

Fractional turnover rate for 2H (day−1)

ko

Fractional turnover rate for 18O (day−1)

CiH

Average 2H concentration of blood sample 1 (atom percent)

CiO

Average 18O concentration of blood sample 1 (atom percent)

CbH

Average background concentration of sample 0 for 2H (atom percent)

CbO

Average background concentration of sample 0 for 18O (atom percent)

CfH

Average 2H concentration of sample 2 (atom percent)

CfO

Average 18O concentration of sample 2 (atom percent)

t

Time (s)

rCO2

Rate of CO2 production (l day−1)

rG

Assumed fraction of water flux lost through evaporative pathways

WBF

Wing beat frequency (Hz)

BU

Number of gliding bouts in undulating flight (bouts min−1)

DU

Mean duration per gliding bout in undulating flight (s)

GU

Total duration of gliding in undulating flight per sample (s)

BB

Number of gliding bouts in bounding flight (bouts min−1)

DB

Mean duration per gliding bout in bounding flight (s)

GB

Total duration of gliding in bounding flight per sample (s)

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sophia Engel
    • 1
    • 2
  • Herbert Biebach
    • 1
  • G. Henk Visser
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Max Planck Institute for OrnithologyAndechsGermany
  2. 2.Department of Behavioural BiologyUniversity of GroningenHarenThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Centre for Isotope ResearchUniversity of GroningenGroningenThe Netherlands

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