Jack aged 5 asks 



This information is provided by Provet for educational purposes only.

You should seek the advice of your veterinarian if your pet is ill as only he or she can correctly advise on the diagnosis and recommend the treatment that is most appropriate for your pet.

The mystery of bird flight has fascinated man for centuries and it is only in the past 150 years that the secrets of flight have been properly unravelled. Our understanding has lead to the development of airplanes and to air travel as a part of everyday life.

Flight is quite complicated - so get a parent to help if you don't understand my explanation !

. There are three main features about birds that allow them to fly :

  • The design of their wings is the most important feature - that is the shape, the bone structure and the feathers. Have you ever looked at a Jumbo Jet and wandered how such a big, heavy  machine can stay up in the air ? Well the answer is the same as it is for birds - it's wing design keeps it up.

  •  It is the up draught of air pushing UP on the underside of the wings that keeps a bird or plane airborne.
  • Movement of the wings in different directions gives birds the ability to slow down, speed up, change direction and generally manoeuver about in the air. If a large surface area of wing is exposed to on-coming air movement it will slow down the bird - this is how the wing flaps (aerofoils) work on a plane. If less surface area is exposed the bird will move faster. Watch sea birds diving or predatory birds (eg eagles) diving to catch smaller prey they hold their wings in tight to reduce wind resistance and gain speed.
  • Birds have hollow bones which are filled with air - which mean they are much lighter than we are in proportion to their size
  • Birds  have extremely well developed and powerful chest (pectoral) muscles which move the wings to get them airborne and for manoeuverability.

Watching birds fly is fascinating. Some, like buzzards and eagles, soar on rising warm air currents for hours and hardly seem to beat their wings.

 Humming birds on the other hand have to beat their wings hundreds of times a second to hover whilst they gather nectar from flowers. 

Wild birds can often be recognised as silhouettes by their unique wing beating action.

If you have a pet bird watch how it flies and try to draw it or photograph it* during the different phases.

*If you have a good photograph that you have taken of a bird in flight why not enter our Monthly Photographic Competition. Send it in JPEG format as an attached file to 



Copyright (c) 1999, 2000 Provet. All rights reserved. Email: