The Aerodynamic Forces and Pressure Distribution of a Revolving Pigeon Wing

Exp Fluids. 2009 May;46(5):991-1003. doi: 10.1007/s00348-008-0596-z.


The aerodynamic forces acting on a revolving dried pigeon wing and a flat card replica were measured with a propeller rig, effectively simulating a wing in continual downstroke. Two methods were adopted: direct measurement of the reaction vertical force and torque via a forceplate, and a map of the pressures along and across the wing measured with differential pressure sensors. Wings were tested at Reynolds numbers up to 108,000, typical for slow-flying pigeons, and considerably above previous similar measurements applied to insect and hummingbird wing and wing models. The pigeon wing out-performed the flat card replica, reaching lift coefficients of 1.64 compared with 1.44. Both real and model wings achieved much higher maximum lift coefficients, and at much higher geometric angles of attack (43°), than would be expected from wings tested in a windtunnel simulating translating flight. It therefore appears that some high-lift mechanisms, possibly analogous to those of slow-flying insects, may be available for birds flapping with wings at high angles of attack. The net magnitude and orientation of aerodynamic forces acting on a revolving pigeon wing can be determined from the differential pressure maps with a moderate degree of precision. With increasing angle of attack, variability in the pressure signals suddenly increases at an angle of attack between 33° and 38°, close to the angle of highest vertical force coefficient or lift coefficient; stall appears to be delayed compared with measurements from wings in windtunnels.