Researchers work out intricate dance between waves, wind, and gliding pelicans — ScienceDaily

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It’s a common sight: pelicans gliding along the waves, right by the shore. These birds make this kind of surfing look effortless, but actually the physics involved that give them a big boost are not simple.

Researchers at the University of California San Diego have recently developed a theoretical model that describes how the ocean, the wind and the birds in flight interact in a recent paper in Movement Ecology.

UC San Diego mechanical engineering Ph.D. student Ian Stokes and adviser Professor Drew Lucas, of UC San Diego’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and Scripps Institution of Oceanography, found that pelicans can completely offset the energy they expend in flight by exploiting wind updrafts generated by waves through what is known as wave-slope soaring. In short, by practicing this behavior, sea-birds take advantage of winds generated by breaking waves to stay…

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