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You are here: Home / Library / RBINS Staff Publications 2019 / Shaking the wings and preening feathers with the beak help a bird to recover its ruffled feather vane

Jing-Shan Zhao, Jiayue Zhang, Yuping Zhao, Zhaodong Zhang and Pascal Godefroit (2020)

Shaking the wings and preening feathers with the beak help a bird to recover its ruffled feather vane

Materials and Design, 187(108410).

The feather of a bird consists of barbs which again comprise numerous barbules with micro-hooklets. This hierarchically organized feather structure provides a smooth vane to bear the load from the airflow; however, the feather vane is vulnerable to disruption by external pulling forces during collision with the branches of a tree and hitting some small obstacles in flight or strong turbulence. The feather is unable to carry the weight of the bird's body if the vane could not be recovered immediately. Here we discovered that the feather vane can be re-established easily by birds themselves. A bird can always recover its feather vane from ruffled state by shaking its wings and preening its feathers with its beak because of the cascaded geometries of barbs and barbules. This biophysical mechanism of self-healing suggests that the hierarchical vane structure can be used to design artificial feathers for a flapping robot.
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