Flying V

I know very little about the sport of hockey. And the little that I do know, I learned from watching The Mighty Ducks movie franchise. Those movies taught me that Iceland was a 1990’s youth hockey power, stopping on ice can be difficult and stopping a kncklepuck is even harder.

Those movies also taught me everything I know about actual ducks. All I know is that ducks fly together and when they do they fly in a V formation.

Until now, I never thought much about the effectiveness of the V formation. It always worked for Charlie Conway and crew, so why shouldn’t it work for real ducks?

But being the wonderer that I am, I thought to myself, “why do ducks fly in the shape of a V?”

Why not fly in an I or a X, or even a D for ducks? Is the letter V a duck’s favorite letter?

My guess is that ducks probably don’t even know letters and that their V formation has more to do with hierarchy than it does alphabet favoritism. Ducks probably have leaders (aka Adam Banks) at the top of the V and the less important ducks (like that cowboy kid) follow in the back.

According to the Library of Congress, the V formation has nothing to do with letter or leader preference. The formation has to do with energy conservation and visual assurance. With the V formation, each bird flies slightly above the bird in front of him which reduces wind resistance.

The birds take turns being in front and falling to the back when they get tired. Using the V formation, ducks can fly a great distance before they get tired.

The V also makes it possible to keep track of every bird in the group. Communication and coordination are both made easier this way.

Learning this makes me want to go back and watch The Mighty Ducks movies to see if the V formation helped them with energy conservation and visual assurance. Part of me thinks that their V had little to do with scientific research and more to do with looking cool for an audience. But who am I to question the coaching of Gordon Bombay.


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