MadSci Network: Zoology

Re: Do birds instinctively know how to fly, or do they have to learn it ?

Date: Fri Dec 4 16:07:05 1998
Posted By: Andrea Bixler, staff (postdoctoral associate), biology, UM-St. Louis
Area of science: Zoology
ID: 908310921.Zo

For young birds, flying involves both instinct and learning.  They do not 
just jump out of the nest one day and fly off.  In fact, they usually do 
not want to jump out of the nest at all (you can hardly blame them!).  
Their parents have to entice them to leave, for example, by flying off a 
little ways and calling to them.  After a while, the fledglings try it, and 
by instinct, extend and even flap their wings as they fall.  They may then 
spend days refining their ability to fly and learning how to handle certain 
situations (flying upward is of course harder than sailing down to the 
ground, and they may have to learn to avoid obstacles and other 
difficulties).  Part of their improvement over time is also due to 
strengthening of the flight muscles (especially the pectoral, or chest, 

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