Landing together: How flocks arrive at a coherent action in time and space in the presence of perturbations

B. Ferdinandy, K. Bhattacharya, D. Ábel, T. Vicsek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

4 Citations (Scopus)


Collective motion is abundant in nature, producing a vast amount of phenomena which have been studied in recent years, including the landing of flocks of birds. We investigate the collective decision making scenario where a flock of birds decides the optimal time of landing in the absence of a global leader. We introduce a simple phenomenological model in the spirit of the statistical mechanics-based self-propelled particles (SPPs) approach to interpret this process. We expect that our model is applicable to a larger class of spatiotemporal decision making situations than just the landing of flocks (which process is used as a paradigmatic case). In the model birds are only influenced by observable variables, like position and velocity. Heterogeneity is introduced in the flock in terms of a depletion time after which a bird feels increasing bias to move towards the ground. Our model demonstrates a possible mechanism by which animals in a large group can arrive at an egalitarian decision about the time of switching from one activity to another in the absence of a leader. In particular, we show the existence of a paradoxical effect where noise enhances the coherence of the landing process.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1207-1215
Number of pages9
JournalPhysica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Feb 15 2012


  • Collective motion
  • Flocking
  • Group decision making
  • Landing
  • SPP model

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Statistics and Probability
  • Condensed Matter Physics

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