One reason that peregrine falcons are such amazing fliers is that their prey, pigeons, are no slouches in flight, either. Able to take off vertically and accelerate to 100 kph in two seconds, pigeons are pint-sized powerhouses. With this high-speed video, BBC Earth highlights the mechanics of this vertical take-off. Pigeons begin by bending their legs and jumping high enough that their first downstroke can extend fully and still clear the ground. That gives them a headstart on generating the force they need to propel themselves upward.
Note the way the pigeon’s wings move, sweeping from directly behind the bird’s back to a full extension in front of it. With the bird moving vertically, this motion tells us that it’s thrust – not aerodynamic lift – from the wingstroke that’s powering this take-off. In that sense, the pigeon is something like a Harrier jet, using the thrust of air downward to take off vertically. (Image and video credit: BBC Earth)