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Raptor wing morphing with flight speed

Cheney, Jorn; Stevenson, Jonathan; Durston, Nicholas; Maeda, Masateru; Song, Jialei; Megson-Smith, David; Windsor, Shane; Usherwood, James; Bomphrey, Richard


Jorn Cheney

Jonathan Stevenson

Nicholas Durston

Masateru Maeda

Jialei Song

David Megson-Smith

Shane Windsor

James Usherwood

Richard Bomphrey


In gliding flight, birds morph their wings and tails to control their flight trajectory and speed. Using high-resolution videogrammetry, we reconstructed accurate and detailed 3D geometries of gliding flights for three raptors (barn owl, Tyto alba; tawny owl, Strix aluco, and goshawk, Accipiter gentilis). Wing shapes were highly repeatable and shoulder actuation was a key component of reconfiguring the overall planform and controlling angle of attack. The three birds shared common spanwise patterns of wing twist, an inverse-relationship between twist and peak camber, and held their wings depressed below their shoulder in an anhedral configuration. With increased speed, all three birds tended to reduce camber throughout the wing, and their wings bent in a saddle-shape pattern. A number of morphing features suggest that the coordinated movements of the wing and tail support efficient flight, and that the tail may act to modulate wing camber through indirect aeroelastic control.


Cheney, J., Stevenson, J., Durston, N., Maeda, M., Song, J., Megson-Smith, D., …Bomphrey, R. (2021). Raptor wing morphing with flight speed. Journal of the Royal Society, Interface,

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jun 21, 2021
Publication Date Jul 14, 2021
Deposit Date Jun 23, 2021
Publicly Available Date Jul 14, 2021
Print ISSN 1742-5689
Publisher The Royal Society
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Article Number 20210349
Keywords wing morphing, bird wings, 3D reconstruction, bird aerodynamics
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