Do Birds Fly Upside Down?

Apparently Forster’s Tern will.

Forster’s Tern Flying Upside Down. Canon EOS 80D with TAMRON SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2 A022, handheld, 1/800 sec., f/9, ISO 200. Moonglow Dairy, Moss Landing, California.

I often see Terns diving into the water for fish at Moonglow Dairy. They are hard to photograph (for me, at least) because they fly fast and make quick turns.

When I was reviewing my pictures later to see if any of my shots had turned out, I couldn’t quite believe what I was seeing. “Is this bird flying UPSIDE DOWN?” I showed the photo to Katherine for verification.

Katherine, the naturalist, set me straight. “It’s not. It’s head is turned around so it looks like it is.”

I Googled “can birds fly upside down.” From an article in BBC Science Focus Magazine, I read that geese will do a maneuver called “whiffling” where they “roll their body upside down and twist their neck to keep their head the right way up.” They do this to lose speed and height for a fast landing. Other than that, birds don’t fly upside down.

NOTE: Birds appearing to fly upside down are more of a challenge for iBird Plus to identify! 😂

(This photo from the archives was taken December 6, 2020.)

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[…] that in the one above, the Osprey appears at first glance to be flying upside down. But like the Forster’s Tern, she had her head turned all the way […]

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