Head bobbing

Have you ever wondered why birds bob – rhythmically move backwards and forwards – their head when walking?

Professor Reinhold Necker certainly has.

Reinhold Necker is now retired, but during his long career researched a wide range of bird related topics – the bio-mechanics behind head bobbing being one of these.

As birds walk, they rapidly thrust their head forwards, followed by a slower backwards motion – or a thrust and hold phase. This thrust and hold motion is actually an illusion, as the head is actually remaining more or less stationary relative to the body that is moving forwards. This was proved by putting a trained dove in a treadmill (Frost, 1978), where after a while, as there is actually no forward motion whilst walking in a treadmill, the bobbing ceased. The same happens when you blindfold a bird, by the way.

What made me think of this?

Watching yet another video of helmet cam footage that was jittery almost beyond recognition of somebody felling or swinging around a tree, flinging themselves out of a plane, falling down a hillside on a mountain bike or whatever, you name it – there seems to be an never-ending source of this kind of material being continuously uploaded to YouTube.

Anyway, this got me wondering whether we ought not just cut our losses, kit out doves with GoPros and let them do the helmet cam filming – and spare everybody else the pain of hours of uncut, wobbly imagery and a feelings of nausea whilst watching it.

Or we could start walking like birds. That at lest would be funny.


Alternatively I could just switch off the computer and get a life? You reckon? OK, I will give that due consideration.