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J Exp Biol. 1994 Feb;187(1):1-18.

NEUROMUSCULAR CONTROL AND KINEMATICS OF INTERMITTENT FLIGHT IN BUDGERIGARS (MELOPSITTACUS UNDULATUS)

Abstract

Kinematic and electromyographic data were collected from budgerigars (parakeets), Melopsittacus undulatus, flying at different speeds in a variable-speed wind tunnel. Birds exhibited flap-gliding at low speeds and flap-bounding at high speeds. The percentage of time spent flapping generally decreased at intermediate speeds. These behavior patterns are consistent with minimizing energy expenditure according to aerodynamic theory. During intermittent glides, the pectoralis exhibited an isometric contraction while the supracoracoideus was inactive. During bounds, both muscles were inactive. Contrary to earlier work, our studies indicate that budgerigars do not exhibit simultaneous twitch contractions of the pectoralis during each wingbeat, but rather generate typical multiple-spike electromyographic bursts that represent motor unit action potential trains or asynchronous twitch contractions from different motor units. The relative intensity of electromyographic bursts from the primary flight muscles increased with flight speed. This may indicate an increase in force production. Our observations of isometric contractions during glides, along with patterns of variation in muscle activity and wingbeat frequency, do not support the hypothesis that small birds such as the budgerigar use flap-bounding as their only means of reducing power output during flight.

PMID:
9317204
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