Metabolic costs of avian flight in relation to flight velocity: a study in Rose Coloured Starlings (Sturnus roseus, Linnaeus)

J Comp Physiol B. 2006 Jun;176(5):415-27. doi: 10.1007/s00360-006-0063-1. Epub 2006 Jan 20.


The metabolic costs of flight at a natural range of speeds were investigated in Rose Coloured Starlings (Sturnus roseus, Linnaeus) using doubly labelled water. Eight birds flew repeatedly and unrestrained for bouts of 6 h at speeds from 9 to 14 m s(-1) in a low-turbulence wind tunnel, corresponding to travel distances between 200 and 300 km, respectively. This represents the widest speed range where we could obtain voluntarily sustained flights. From a subset of these flights, data on the wing beat frequency (WBF) and intermittent flight behaviour were obtained. Over the range of speeds that were tested, flight costs did not change with velocity and were on an average 8.17+/-0.64 W or 114 W kg(-1). Body mass was the only parameter with a significant (positive) effect on flight costs, which can be described as EE(f)=0.741 M(0.554). WBF changed slightly with speed, but correlated better with body mass. Birds showed both types of intermittent flight, undulating and bounding, but their frequencies did not systematically change with flight speed.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Mass Index
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology*
  • Flight, Animal / physiology*
  • Mathematics
  • Physical Endurance / physiology
  • Starlings / physiology*