Aerodynamic yawing moment characteristics of bird wings

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The aerodynamic yawing moments due to sideslip are considered for wings of birds. Reference is made to the experience with aircraft wings in order to identify features which are significant for the yawing moment characteristics. Thus, it can be shown that wing sweep, aspect ratio and lift coefficient have a great impact. Focus of the paper is on wing sweep which can considerably increase the yawing moment due to sideslip when compared with unswept wings. There are many birds the wings of which employ sweep. To show the effect of sweep for birds, the aerodynamic characteristics of a gull wing which is considered as a representative example are treated in detail. For this purpose, a sophisticated aerodynamic method is used to compute results of high precision. The yawing moments of the gull wing with respect to the sideslip angle and the lift coefficient are determined. They show a significant level of yaw stability which strongly increases with the lift coefficient. It is particularly high in the lift coefficient region of best gliding flight conditions. In order to make the effect of sweep more perspicuous, a modification of the gull wing employing no sweep is considered for comparison. It turns out that the unswept wing yields yawing moments which are substantially smaller than those of the original gull wing with sweep. Another feature significant for the yawing moment characteristics concerns the fact that sweep is at the outer part of bird wings. By considering the underlying physical mechanism, it is shown that this feature is most important for the efficiency of wing sweep. To sum up, wing sweep provides a primary contribution to the yawing moments. It may be concluded that this is an essential reason why there is sweep in bird wings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)471-478
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Theoretical Biology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 21 Jun 2005


  • Bird wings
  • Wing sweep
  • Yaw stability
  • Yawing moments


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