Water entry impact dynamics of diving birds

Saberul I. Sharker, Sean Holekamp, Mohammad M. Mansoor, Frank E. Fish, Tadd T. Truscott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Some seabirds (such as northern gannets and brown boobies) can dive from heights as high as 30 m reaching speeds of up to 24 m s-1 as they impact the water surface. The physical geometry of plunge diving birds, particularly of the beak, allows them to limit high impact forces compared to non-diving birds. Numerically simulated data for one species (northern gannet) provides some insight into the impact forces experienced during diving, however, no reliable experimental data with real bird geometries exist for comparison purposes. This study utilizes eleven 3D printed diving bird models of three types of birds: plunge-diving (five), surface-diving (five) and dipper (one), with embedded accelerometers to measure water-entry impact accelerations for impact velocities ranging between 4.4-23.2 m s-1. Impact forces for all bird types are found to be comparable under similar impact conditions and well within the safe zone characterized by neck strength as found in recent studies. However, the time that each bird requires to reach maximum impact acceleration from impact is different based on its beak and head shape and so is its effect, represented here by its derivative (i.e. jerk). We show that surface diving birds have high non-dimensional jerk, which exceed a safe limit estimated from human impact analysis, whereas those by plunge divers do not.
Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalBioinspiration and Biomimetics
Issue number5
StatePublished - Aug 29 2019
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Biotechnology
  • Biophysics


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