Coping with compliance during take-off and landing in the diamond dove (Geopelia cuneata)

Kristen E. Crandell, Austin F. Smith, Ondi L. Crino, Bret W. Tobalske

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


The natural world is filled with substrates of varying properties that challenge locomotor abilities. Birds appear to transition smoothly from aerial to terrestrial environments during takeoffs and landings using substrates that are incredibly variable. It may be challenging to control movement on and off compliant (flexible) substrates such as twigs, yet birds routinely accomplish such tasks. Previous research suggests that birds do not use their legs to harness elastic recoil from perches. Given avian mastery of take-off and landing, we hypothesized that birds instead modulate wing, body and tail movements to effectively use compliant perches. We measured take-off and landing performance of diamond doves (Geopelia cuneata (N = 5) in the laboratory and perch selection in this species in the field (N = 25). Contrary to our hypothesis, doves do not control take-off and landing on compliant perches as effectively as they do on stiff perches. They do not recover elastic energy from the perch, and take-off velocities are thus negatively impacted. Landing velocities remain unchanged, which suggests they may not anticipate the need to compensate for compliance. Legs and wings function as independent units: legs produce lower initial velocities when taking off from a compliant substrate, which negatively impacts later flight velocities. During landing, significant stability problems arise with compliance that are ameliorated by the wings and tail. Collectively, we suggest that the diamond dove maintains a generalized take-off and landing behavior regardless of perch compliance, leading us to conclude that perch compliance represents a challenge for flying birds. Free-living diamond doves avoid the negative impacts of compliance by preferentially selecting perches of larger diameter, which tend to be stiffer.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0199662
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2018


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