Oxygen consumption and carbon dioxide production were measured during flight in unrestrained starlings by a new method. Mean RQ after the first 30 min of flight was 0.69 +/− 0.08 (+/− S.D.). Mean rate of carbon dioxide production was 19.7 +/− 2.2 ml CO2/min, which corresponds to a metabolic rate of 8.9 +/− 1 W. Metabolic rate during flight did not change significantly over a range of air speeds from 8 to 18 m/s and birds would not fly at speeds outside of this range. Current theories of bird flight predict a large change in metabolic rate over the same range of speeds. Wingbeat frequency was constant at 12 +/− 0.5 Hz. Wingbeat amplitude reached a minimum at a speed of 14 m/s and increased at both higher and lower speeds. Angle between the body and horizontal was least at high speeds and increased at low speeds. As existing theories do not take into account the change of drag resulting from changes in body attitude, this may be a cause of the discrepancies between theory and observation.
- © 1978 by Company of Biologists