Scientists From Mexico Give Dead Birds a New Life

Dead birds hooked to machines can be creepy to the public eye, but for scientists, these dead animals are gold in pushing for new findings in wildlife research. Scientists in New Mexico are experimenting with dead birds to give them new life by putting a spin on existing wildlife research practices.

For this particular study in Socorro, scientists from the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology are using dead birds that have been preserved through taxidermy and transforming them into drones. The findings will help the researchers study bird formation and flight patterns.

Dr. Mostafa Hassanalian, a mechanical engineering professor responsible for leading the project, found that fake birds weren’t delivering the desired results.

“We came up with this idea that we can use .. dead birds and make them (into) a drone,” he said. “Everything is there… we do reverse engineering.”

Credit: REUTERS/Liliana Salgado

Taxidermy bird drones are being tested with a purpose-built cage at the university. The findings can lead to real-world applicable uses in the aviation industry, according to Hassanalian.

“If we learn how these birds manage… energy between themselves, we can apply (that) into the future aviation industry to save more energy and save more fuel,” he added.

Brenden Herkenhoff, a Ph.D. student at New Mexico Tech, targets his research on coloration and flight efficiency. People jump to thinking about mating and camouflaging abilities when it comes to an animal’s color but Herkenhoff is interested in exploring the relationship between color and flight efficiency.

“We’ve done experiments and determined that for our fixed-wing aircraft, applying certain color can change the flight efficiency. And the same is true for birds, we believe,” Herkenhoff said.

Hassanalian added: “The current taxidermy bird prototype flies for a maximum of only 20 minutes, so the next stage is to figure out how to make it fly longer and conduct tests in the wild among living birds.”