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vantage is taken of the weight of the body and the shape of the pinion to utilize the air as a supporting medium. In these the pinion acts as a long lever, and is wielded with great precision and power, particularly at the shoulder.
The Flight of the Albatross compared to the Movements of a Compass set upon Gimbals.-A careful examination of the movements in skimming birds has led me to conclude that by a judicious twisting or screw-like action of the wings at the shoulder, in which the pinions are alternately advanced towards and withdrawn from the head in a manner analogous to what occurs at the loins in skating without lifting the feet, birds of this order can not only maintain the motion which they secure by a few energetic flappings, but, if necessary, actually increase it, and that without either bending the wing or beating the air.
The forward and backward screwing action of the pinion referred to, in no way interferes, I may remark, with the rotation of the wing on its long axis, the pinion being advanced and screwed down upon the wind, and retracted and unscrewed alternately. As the movements described enable the sailing bird to tilt its body from before backwards, or
1 Advantages possessed by long Pinions.—The long narrow wings are most effective as elevators and propellers, from the fact (pointed out by Mr. Wen. ham) that at high speeds, with very oblique incidences, the supporting effect becomes transferred to the front edge of the pinion. It is in this way “that the effective propelling area of the two-bladed screw is tantamount to its entire circle of revolution.” A similar principle was announced by Sir George Cayley upwards of fifty years ago. “ In very acute angles with the current, it appears that the centre of resistance in the sail does not coincide with the centre of its surface, but is considerably in front of it. As the obliquity of the current decreases, these centres approach, and coincide when the current becomes perpendicular to the plane ; hence any heel of the machine backwards or forwards removes the centre of support behind or before the point of suspension.”—Nicholson's Journal, vol. xxv. p. 83. When the speed attained by the bird is greatly accelerated, and the stratum of air passed over in any given time enormously increased, the support afforded by the air to the inclined planes formed by the wings is likewise augmented. This is proved by the rapid flight of skimming or sailing birds when the wings are moved at long intervals and very leisurely. The same principle supports the skater as he rushes impetuously over insecure ice, and the thin flat stone projected along the surface of still water. The velocity of the movement in either case prevents sinking by not giving the supporting particles time to separate.
the converse, and from side to side or laterally, it may be represented as oscillating on one of two centres, as shown at fig. 105; the one corresponding with the long axis of the body (fig. 105, o, b), the other with the long axis of the wings (cd). Between these two extremes every variety of sailing and gliding motion which is possible in the mariner's compass when set upon gimbals may be performed; so that a skimming or sailing bird may be said to possess perfect command over itself and over the element in which it moves.
Captain Hutton makes the following remarkable statement regarding the albatross :—“I have sometimes watched narrowly one of these birds sailing and wheeling about in all directions for more than an hour, without seeing the slightest movement of the wings, and have never witnessed anything to equal the ease and grace of this bird as he sweeps past, often within a few yards, every part of his body perfectly motionless except the head and eye, which turn slowly and seem to take notice of everything.” 1
- Tranquil its spirit seem'd and floated slow;
Even in its very motion there was rest." 2
As an antithesis to the apparently lifeless wings of the 1“On some of the Birds inhabiting the Southern Ocean." -Ibis, 2d series, vol. i. 1865.
2 Professor Wilson's Sonnet, " A Cloud,” etc.
albatross, the ceaseless activity of those of the humming-bird may be adduced. In those delicate and exquisitely beautiful birds, the wings, according to Mr. Gould, move so rapidly when the bird is poised before an object, that it is impossible for the eye to follow each stroke, and a hazy circle of indistinctness on each side of the bird is all that is perceptible. When the humming-bird flies in a horizontal direction, it occasionally proceeds with such velocity as altogether to elude observation.
The regular and irregular in Flight. The coot, diver, duck, and goose fly with great regularity in nearly a straight line, and with immense speed ; they rarely if ever skim or glide, their wings being too small for this purpose. The woodpecker, magpie, fieldfare and sparrow, supply examples of what may be termed the “irregular” in flight. These, as is well known, fly in curves of greater or less magnitude, by giving a few vigorous strokes and then desisting, the effect of which is to project them along a series of parabolic curves. The snipe and woodcock are irregular in another respect, their flight being sudden, jerky, and from side to side.
Mode of ascending, descending, turning, etc.—All birds which do not, like the swallow and humming-birds, drop from a height, raise themselves at first by a vigorous leap, in which they incline their bodies in an upward direction, the height thus attained enabling them to extend and depress their wings without injury to the feathers. By a few sweeping strokes delivered downwards and forwards, in which the wings are made nearly to meet above and below the body, they lever themselves upwards and forwards, and in a surprisingly short time acquire that degree of momentum which greatly assists them in their future career. In rising from the ground, as may readily be seen in the crow, pigeon, and kingfisher (fig. 102, p. 183), the tail is expanded and the neck stretched out, so that the body is converted into an inclined plane, and acts mechanically as a kite. The centre of gravity and the position of the body are changed at the will of the bird by movements in the neck, feet, and tail, and by increasing or decreasing the angles which the under
relat little powers and others which glide
surface of the wings makes with the horizon. When a bird wishes to fly in a horizontal direction, it causes the under surface of its wings to make a slight forward angle with the horizon. When it wishes to ascend, the angle is increased. When it wishes to descend, it causes the under surface of the wings to make a slight backward angle with the horizon. When a bird flies up, its wings strike downwards and forwards. When it flies down, its wings strike downwards and backwards. When a sufficient altitude has been attained, the length of the downward stroke is generally curtailed, the mere extension and flexion of the wing, assisted by the weight of the body, in such instances sufficing. This is especially the case if the bird is advancing against a slight breeze, the effort required under such circumstances being nominal in amount. That little power is expended is proved by the endless gyrations of rooks and other birds; these being continued for hours together. In birds which glide or skim, it has appeared to me that the wing is recovered much more quickly, and the down stroke delivered more slowly, than in ordinary flight--in fact, that the rapidity with which the wing acts in an upward and downward direction is, in some instances, reversed ; and this is what we should naturally expect when we recollect that in gliding, the wings require to be, for the most part, in the expanded condition. If this observation be correct, it follows that birds have the power of modifying the duration of the up and down strokes at pleasure. Although the wing of the bird usually strikes the air at an angle which varies from 15° to 30°, the angle may be increased to such an extent as to subvert the position of the bird. The tumbler pigeon, e.g. can, by slewing its wings forwards and suddenly throwing back its head, turn a somersault. When birds are fairly on the wing they have the air, unless when that is greatly agitated by a storm, completely under control. This arises from their greater specific gravity, and because they are possessed of independent motion. If they want to turn, they have simply to tilt their bodies laterally, as a railway carriage would be tilted in taking a curve, or to increase the number of beats given by
1 "If the albatross desires to turn to the rigbt he bends his head and tail
wings for wit. When that is great vises
the one wing as compared with the other; or to keep the one wing extended while the other is partially flexed. The neck, feet, and tail may or may not contribute to this result. If the bird wishes to rise, it tilts its entire body (the neck and tail participating) in an upward direction (fig. 59, p. 126; fig. 102, p. 183); or it rises principally by the action of the wings and by muscular efforts, as happens in the lark. The bird can in this manner likewise retain its position in the air, as may be observed in the hawk when hovering above its prey. If the bird desires to descend, it may reverse the direction of the inclined plane formed by the body and wings, and plunge head foremost with extended pinions
Fig. 106. — The Pigeon (Treron bicincta, Jerdon), flying downwards and turning descending. - Original.
prior to alighting.
(fig. 106); or it may flex the wings, and so accelerate its pace; or it may raise its wings and drop parachute-fashion (fig. 55, p. 112; , g of fig. 82, p. 158); or it may even fly in a downward direction—a few sudden strokes, a more or less abrupt curve, and a certain degree of horizontal movement being in either case necessary to break the slightly upwards, at the same time raising his left side and wing, and lowering the right in proportion to the sharpness of the curve he wishes to make, the wings being kept quite rigid the whole time. To such an extent does he do this, that in sweeping round, his wings are often pointed in a direction nearly perpendicular to the sea; and this position of the wings, more or less inclined to the horizon, is seen always and only when the bird is turning.”—“ On some of the Birds inhabiting the Southern Ocean.” Ibis, 2d series, vol. i. 1865, p. 227.