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Image of bird.

How Do Birds Fly?

Birds take to the sky and return to land or water in marvelously different ways.

by Carrol Henderson and Michael A. Kallok

For thousands of years, humans have watched with wonder and envy as birds fly. People first tried to fly like birds by imitating the flapping of wings. In the late 1400s, Leonardo da Vinci created a wing-flapping contraption called an ornithopter (from the Greek word ornithos for bird and pteron for wing). He thought flying was simply a matter of flapping wings up and down. The ornithopter didn't work because he did not understand how bird wings must generate lift and thrust to fly.

Today, airplanes with powerful engines can fly long distances. But human-made machines will probably never match the natural power and grace of birds on the wing. Birds have feathers and bones adapted for flight. With these adaptations, they can take off, hover, soar, glide, dive, and land in amazing ways.

To read this entire Young Naturalists story, download the PDF below.

Teachers Resources

Full color PDF of How do Birds Fly. Teacher's guide for How do Birds Fly?. photo of owl.

Read "Northern Saw-Whet Owl 10-583" March–April 2011 for a story on the treatement and care of an injured owl.

Full-color PDF of
How Do Birds Fly?
This is a PDF file. You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to download it.

Teachers Guide for How Do Birds Fly? This is a PDF file. You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to download it.


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