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Wingtip shape and flight performance in the European Starling Sturnus vulgaris


*Corresponding author.


Although wingform is known to differ among individuals of the same species it is not known how intraspecific variation in wingtip shape is associated with flight performance. In this study, we have examined both among- and within-individual variation in wingtip shape in relation to changes in flight performance in the European Starling Sturnus vulgaris. We found that level flapping-flight speed and the ability to negotiate an aerial obstacle course were unrelated to wingtip shape. However, take-off parameters did vary with wingtip shape; birds with more rounded wingtips tended to take off from the ground at a steeper angle of ascent than those with relatively more pointed wingtips. The same relationships between wingtip morphology and flight were present in both the inter- and intra-individual experimental analyses. The evolutionary importance of this variation in take-off ability is discussed in terms of predator avoidance and enhancement of individual survival.