Hand wing index

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The hand wing index was developed by Friedrich A. Kipp as a flight biological measure. This index primarily provides information about the bird's ability to fly . It can also be an additional reference point for species identification in the case of dead finds .


Calculation and application of the hand wing index

The hand wing index indicates the ratio of the length of the hand wings to the total wing length of a bird . With its help ornithologists determine how far the migrations are that a bird takes.

The higher the hand wing index of a bird, the better its flight characteristics: in the wren , a resident bird , it is 16.5%, in the far-moving common swift it is 72.3%.

It should be noted, however, that comparisons between different families or (sub) orders are not necessarily meaningful. If, for example, one compares the blackbird (index = 25) with the water rail (index = 28), it must be noted that the water rail is nevertheless the far worse flyer. Family Internally, however, the differences may allow an appropriate conclusion: The index of Fieldfare shows at 35 a better ability to fly to than what corresponds to the Blackbird reality.

The hand wing index is calculated using the following formula:

Determining the migration distance not by observation but by the hand wing index is important in that it helps paleontologists to assess the migration behavior of extinct species. Using fossilized birds, it was possible to trace migration behavior back to around a million years ago.


  • Kipp, Friedrich A. (1959): The hand wing index as a flight biological measure. Ornithological station 20: 77-86.
  • Vitus B. Dröscher: Animal walks . Was-Ist-Was Volume 77, Tessloff, Nuremberg, ISBN 3-7886-0417-4

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