Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A New Type of Carrier Pigeon

Long before we had cars we had horse drawn carriages.  Doesn’t this mean that we should also have had bird drawn planes?  How many pigeons would it take to carry a 747?

According to Wikipedia, the Boeing 747 has a maximum take-off weight of 442,000 kg (~975,000 lbs).  Since birds build nests, we know that a pigeon is strong enough to carry a twig.  Wood densities vary, but they’re roughly about 500 kg/m3. This means that a 5 mm thick 10 cm long twig would weigh about 1.3 g.  From this we can compute the number of pigeons needed to carry a 747.

# of birds = (mass to be carried) / (mass carried per bird)
= (442,000 kg) / (1.3 g per bird)
= 3.4×108 birds

It would take about 340 million pigeons. This is much more than we could realistically harness to a plane, which is probably good given what pigeons typically do to your car.

Check in tomorrow to find out who won the Mario Estimation Contest.


  1. You arrived at your answer rather simply. Yes, a pigeon can carry a twig that weighs about 1.3 g but how fast can a pigeon fly carrying that twig? Wouldn't the pigeons have to get the plane up to a certain speed on the runway in order for the plane to actually take off?

    ...And yes, I realize my guess was WAY off. I'm not saying mine was closer! I'm just curious.