An examination of the kinematics and behavior of mallards (Anas platyrhynchos) during water landings
Whitehead, John Gardner
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This dissertation aims to address how a change in landing substrate may change landing kinematics. To examine this possibility, mallards (Anas playtrhynchos) were used as a study species and 177 water landings were recorded through the use of two camera systems with photogrammetric capabilities. This enabled the landing trajectory and landing transition kinematics to be tracked in three dimensions. From the resulting position data three questions were pursued. Do mallards regulate landing kinematics through a ̇-constant strategy? With what kinematics do mallards land on water? Do landing kinematics respond to external factors, such as an obstacle to landing? Chapter 2 assesses the presence of a ̇-constant regulatory strategy and compares the implementation to other landing behaviors. Chapter 3 examines the variation observed in the landing kinematics of mallards, identifies the primary kinematic drivers of that variation, and detects differences in kinematic profile. Chapter 4 inspects the landing kinematics combined with the positions of all other waterfowl in the vicinity to test for the presence of obstacle avoidance behavior.
General Audience Abstract
Control of landing is an important ability for any flying animal. However, with the exception of perch landing, we know very little about how birds and other flyers land on a variety of different surfaces. Here, we aim to extend our knowledge in this area by focusing on how mallard ducks land on water. This dissertation addresses the following questions. Do mallards regulate landing speed and trajectory the same way as pigeons? At what speeds, angles, and postures do mallards land on water? Can mallards adjust landing behavior to avoid collisions with other birds on the water surface? Chapter 2 determines how mallards regulate landings and how it is similar and different from pigeons and several other flyers. Chapter 3 describes the speeds, angles, and postures used by mallards to land on water. In addition, this chapter finds evidence for at least two different categories of landing performed by mallards. Chapter 4 provides evidence that mallards avoid situations in which a collision with another bird is likely. However, it is unclear if this is an active choice made by the mallard or due to other circumstances related to the landing behavior. Overall, this dissertation illustrates how the landing behavior of mallards is similar to what has been documented in other animals. However there are significant differences such as higher impact speeds, and shallower angles. Both of which are likely related to the ability of water to absorb a greater amount of the impact forces than a perch or the ground would.
- Doctoral Dissertations