Do Birds Fall From The Sky If They Stop Flapping Their Wings?

As humans, we are just amateurs in the skies who keep comparing the avian creatures based on a few facts.

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Intro Video - Backtobirds

From aviation, we know how much energy is needed to take off in the air.

Birds have a high metabolism. They need an immense amount of energy to take flight in the wind for hours, days, and even months.

Goldfinches and Bee-eaters!

Both large and small birds have different sizes and shapes of wings to create a lift to take flight. In addition, birds have hollow bones with more air spaces inside their bones compared to chickens.

Do birds fall from the sky if they stop flapping their wings?

No, birds do not fall from the sky unless they are killed mid-air by hunters or other predators. Birds can sustain soaring for a longer time in heavy wind and thermal conditions.

Imagine swimming in a stagnant water body and giving a solid push, then you stop your movements – do you immediately immerse in the water? No, both you and birds in the mid-air have built some momentum. 

With the help of momentum, birds don’t stop right away in mid-air and won’t fall immediately.

Instead, they would glide down to the ground by spreading their wings out even though they no longer produce lift.

Predatory birds such as eagles, vultures, and kites use this method to capture their prey at high altitudes.

These incredible birds fly in mid-air for more than five hours and cover a distance of 100 miles without flapping their wings. During take-off, they use 1% of their time and energy aloft flapping their feathers.

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Which birds can travel long distances without flapping their wings?

Land birds: 

  • Hawks 
  • Andean Condors 
  •  Vultures
  • Golden eagle
  • American White Pelicans
  • Great Frigatebirds
  • White Storks

Sea birds:

  • Petrels 
  • Wandering Albatrosses 
  • Shearwater 

The above are soaring birds that can sustain for extended periods without flapping their wings and allowing air to do the work for them.

When young birds grow and attain the size of the raptor, to survive in the competitive environment, they rely on different types of flight: gliding and soaring.

By soaring flight, birds reach high altitude and get energy from the atmospheric air currents, and travel fast to their destination.

When birds glide, they create updraft force using their wings to keep them floating in the air and dive down to the ground. Bird species use gliding and soaring flight in many ways to survive in mid-air.

Andean condors are inland crown soaring species, and the heaviest birds weighing around 35 pounds make fewer flaps while traveling than other free-ranging avian species.

Researchers found that even young Andean Condors spend about 99% to soar in their flight time, and they used to flap their wings only during take-off and landing.

Albatrosses are the ultimate soaring birds in the sea, and they have the largest wingspan among avian species. At a time, Albatross’s long wings, about 11 to 12 feet, help their thin bodies stay aloft for longer days.

In addition, they spend around 1.2% to 14.5% of flight time remaining in the wind by slowly flapping wings.

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How do birds glide without flapping their wings?

In gliding flight, birds do not flap their wings but spread them out of the body. When they move in the mid-air, their wings change their body position into a slight angle and deflect the wind downward.

It causes a reaction force (lift or updraft) in the opposite direction and acts perpendicular to the wings to keep birds from falling.  

The air resistance brings the body and wings down to the ground, and the lift force causes the bird’s speed to slow down.

To withstand the pressure, birds tilt forward and go into a shallow dive to maintain forward momentum.

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Can birds sleep in their flight without falling from the mid-air?

Yes, birds like Frigate birds travel continuously for one to two months and use their half-brain to take naps during soaring or gliding flights.

Throughout the whole day, like sharks and cetaceans, Frigate birds would control their cerebral hemispheres and allow switching sides to awake and asleep of the brain.

Frigate birds take 10-second bursts of total sleep when they fly on rising wind currents to gain altitude and help to float in the wind.

Usually, birds take an average nap of 42 minutes per day during long flights. However, on land, birds sleep more than 12 hours in one-minute bursts per day.

On the whole note, birds do not fall from the sky if they stop flapping their wings.