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The true costs of bird flight: From the laboratory to the field

Total Cost €


EC-Contrib. €






Project "FLIGHT" data sheet

The following table provides information about the project.


Organization address
postcode: SA2 8PP

contact info
title: n.a.
name: n.a.
surname: n.a.
function: n.a.
email: n.a.
telephone: n.a.
fax: n.a.

 Coordinator Country United Kingdom [UK]
 Total cost 1˙996˙042 €
 EC max contribution 1˙996˙042 € (100%)
 Programme 1. H2020-EU.1.1. (EXCELLENT SCIENCE - European Research Council (ERC))
 Code Call ERC-2016-STG
 Funding Scheme ERC-STG
 Starting year 2017
 Duration (year-month-day) from 2017-04-01   to  2022-03-31


Take a look of project's partnership.

# participants  country  role  EC contrib. [€] 
1    SWANSEA UNIVERSITY UK (SWANSEA) coordinator 1˙996˙042.00


 Project objective

Flight is thought to be one of the most energetically costly of bird activities. These costs matter by virtue of their magnitude, as factors affecting flight costs can have a disproportionate impact on the overall energy balance. Flight costs are fundamentally linked to airflows, as well as behavioural responses to them, because birds react to horizontal and vertical currents by changing flight mode (i.e. flapping/ gliding), speed and route. Even minor route adjustments can radically affect the flow conditions that birds experience due to the uniquely dynamic and heterogeneous nature of the aerial environment. Yet our understanding of how airflows impact birds is in its infancy, being constrained by a lack of information on the metabolic costs of flight. Currently, the main methods for measuring flight costs in the laboratory either restrain the bird (thereby increasing energy expenditure) or suffer from low resolution, and field methods do not allow costs to be resolved in relation to fine scale movement paths. FLIGHT will use interdisciplinary approaches, integrating laboratory and field techniques, to address these grand challenges. Breakthrough methodologies will be used to (1) measure the costs of unrestrained bird flight in the laboratory and (2) derive a new proxy for power use in flight that is linked to flight performance, using accelerometry measurements from cutting-edge data loggers. Loggers will then be (3) deployed on wild birds to quantify their responses to airflows and the energetic consequences over fine scales. This will provide completely novel, mechanistic insight into the way the physical environment impacts flight costs, and (4) enable variation in flight–related energy expenditure to be modelled geographically and seasonally in model species. Overall, FLIGHT will provide new macro-ecological insight into relationships between bird distributions and flow conditions and inform assessments of how birds may be affected by changing wind regimes.


year authors and title journal last update
List of publications.
2020 Hannah J. Williams, Lucy A. Taylor, Simon Benhamou, Allert I. Bijleveld, Thomas A. Clay, Sophie Grissac, Urška Demšar, Holly M. English, Novella Franconi, Agustina Gómez‐Laich, Rachael C. Griffiths, William P. Kay, Juan Manuel Morales, Jonathan R. Potts, Katharine F. Rogerson, Christian Rutz, Anouk Spelt, Alice M. Trevail, Rory P. Wilson, Luca Börger
Optimizing the use of biologgers for movement ecology research
published pages: 186-206, ISSN: 0021-8790, DOI: 10.1111/1365-2656.13094
Journal of Animal Ecology 89/1 2020-02-06
2019 Anouk Spelt, Cara Williamson, Judy Shamoun-Baranes, Emily Shepard, Peter Rock, Shane Windsor
Habitat use of urban-nesting lesser black-backed gulls during the breeding season
published pages: , ISSN: 2045-2322, DOI: 10.1038/s41598-019-46890-6
Scientific Reports 9/1 2019-08-30
2019 Emily Shepard, Emma-Louise Cole, Andrew Neate, Emmanouil Lempidakis, Andrew Ross
Wind prevents cliff-breeding birds from accessing nests through loss of flight control
published pages: , ISSN: 2050-084X, DOI: 10.7554/elife.43842
eLife 8 2019-08-30
2019 Rory P Wilson, Luca Börger, Mark D. Holton, D. Michael Scantlebury, Agustina Gómez‐Laich, Flavio Quintana, Frank Rosell, Patricia M. Graf, Hannah Williams, Richard Gunner, Lloyd Hopkins, Nikki Marks, Nathan R. Geraldi, Carlos M. Duarte, Rebecca Scott, Michael S. Strano, Hermina Robotka, Christophe Eizaguirre, Andreas Fahlman, Emily L. C. Shepard
Estimates for energy expenditure in free‐living animals using acceleration proxies; a reappraisal
published pages: , ISSN: 0021-8790, DOI: 10.1111/1365-2656.13040
Journal of Animal Ecology 2019-08-30

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