Switching hierarchical leadership mechanism in homing flight of pigeon flocks

Duxin Chen, T. Vicsek, Xiaolu Liu, Tao Zhou, Hai Tao Zhang

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4 Citations (Scopus)


To explore the fascinating inter-individual interaction mechanism governing the abundant biological grouping behaviors, more and more efforts have been devoted to collective motion investigation in recent years. Therein, bird flocking is one of the most intensively studied behaviors. A previous study (Nagy M. et al., Nature, 464 (2010) 890.) claims the existence of a well-defined hierarchical structure in pigeon flocks, which implies that a multi-layer leadership network leads to the occurrence of highly coordinated pigeon flock movements. However, in this study, by using high-resolution GPS data of homing flight of pigeon flocks, we reveal an explicit switching hierarchical mechanism underlying the group motions of pigeons. That is, a pigeon flock has a long-term leader for smooth moving trajectories, whereas the leading tenure passes to a temporary one upon sudden turns or zigzags. Therefore, the present observation helps explore more deeply into the principle of a huge volume of bird flocking dynamics. Meanwhile, from the engineering point of view, it may shed some light onto industrial multi-robot coordination and unmanned air vehicle formation control.

Original languageEnglish
Article number60008
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 1 2016


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physics and Astronomy(all)

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