I’m not sure about you, but fall is my favorite time of year. The air seems cleaner and crisper; leaves start to turn brilliant shades; skies appear a clearer blue while every cloud-enhanced sunset is breathtaking.
It’s also the time of year that animals take such cues from nature and begin migrations to warmer climes, including geese flying in their distinctive “V” formation (see photo inser}.
Aside from its visual splendor and role as harbinger of autumn, the unique flying “V” has an important function – without that aerodynamic structure, virtually NONE of the geese would be able to make the grueling trip alone.
The reality is that the “V” formation provides increased lift (ability to stay up) and reduced drag (expended effort against resistance), which mostly benefits the birds at either end of the line. Researchers have found that throughout the trip, the lead bird on point is usually one of the strongest flyers of the flock.
However, those lead flyers get fatigued bearing the brunt of the wind and elements for the rest of the group for extended periods of flight. After awhile the leader instinctively falls to the back of the bunch to rest and regain strength, while another strong bird takes the vacant point. That cycle repeats until the birds meet their next rest stop for food and water.
Interestingly, average and weaker birds tend to stay in the middle or back of the formation the entire trip where the work is a bit easier but no less important. The larger numbers of these birds working together provides the crucial aerodynamic benefits of the flying “V” (namely its airfoil shape and lift) that helps all of them.
Because they’re not buffeted by the elements as severely as they birds on point, the middling birds are able to fly longer and farther – prolonging the integrity of the “V” and its stability.
However, without the stronger lead birds – the pivotal point of the “V” would not exist, the aerodynamic shape would break and the rest of the flock would not be able to maximize the flight efficiency and would be left flying in an energy-draining straight line or random gaggle. Regardless, they would not be able to go the distance.
Additionally, without the middle performers keeping the shape and integrity of the “V” – the stronger lead birds would never get a break and the formation would not benefit from the uplifting effort of the collective.
The bottom line is that without each of them working together in a cooperative manner and structure – NONE of them would be able to make the trip. I need to remind myself of this fact when the cares of life and stresses of this world weigh heavy and I feel alone. I’m not alone and neither are you.
I find that my own burdens get a bit lighter when I shoulder up along side of someone to help carry their load - amazingly, each of us can go farther together.