January 25, 2010

Roosting on Structures

Last week I observed some birds above the University power plant smoke stack. I ended up making a video of their flight pattern. My interest in this stems from the widespread use of bird flocks as a model for understanding collective flocking (an instance of emergent behavior), in addition to some work I have done on modeling roosting behaviors among birds [1]. They were orbiting the power plant in a toroidal pattern, stretching out their orbit in slightly different directions on every cycle.

Image of birds circling the MSC smokestack, Michigan State University.

On one day, I saw them make a few cycles in one direction, then make a loop to the outside of the orbit in order to change direction. On another day, then decided to roost after making their series of orbits.

[1] this is available as a paper and talk presented at Understanding Complex Systems, 2006 (Champaign-Urbana, IL).

UPDATE (12/10/2013): the paper has been accepted and is now available on the bioRxiv.

Alicea, B.   Filling up the tree: considering the self-organization of avian roosting behavior. bioRxiv, doi:10.1101/000349.

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