A quantitative comparison of bird and bat wakes.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Qualitative comparison of bird and bat wakes has demonstrated significant differences in the structure of the far wake. Birds have been found to have a unified vortex wake of the two wings, while bats have a more complex wake with gradients in the circulation along the wingspan, and with each wing generating its own vortex structure. Here, we compare quantitative measures of the circulation in the far wake of three bird and one bat species. We find that bats have a significantly stronger normalized circulation of the start vortex than birds. We also find differences in how the circulation develops during the wingbeat as demonstrated by the ratio of the circulation of the dominant start vortex and the total circulation of the same sense. Birds show a more prominent change with changing flight speed and a relatively weaker start vortex at minimum power speed than bats. We also find that bats have a higher normalized wake loading based on the start vortex, indicating higher relative induced drag and therefore less efficient lift generation than birds. Our results thus indicate fundamental differences in the aerodynamics of bird and bat flight that will further our understanding of the evolution of vertebrate flight.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)61-66
JournalJournal of the Royal Society Interface
Publication statusPublished - 2010

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Biological Sciences


Dive into the research topics of 'A quantitative comparison of bird and bat wakes.'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this