Supplementary Figures S1-S5 and Legends from Synchronization, coordination and collective sensing during thermalling flight of freely migrating white storks

Exploring how flocks of soaring migrants manage to achieve and maintain coordination while exploiting thermal updrafts is important for understanding how collective movements can enhance the sensing of the surrounding environment. Here we examined the structural organization of a group of circling white storks (Ciconia ciconia) throughout their migratory journey from Germany to Spain. We analysed individual high-resolution GPS trajectories of storks during circling events, and evaluated each bird's flight behaviour in relation to its flock members. Within the flock, we identified subgroups that synchronize their movements and coordinate switches in their circling direction within thermals. These switches in direction can be initiated by any individual of the subgroup, irrespective of how advanced its relative vertical position is, and occur at specific horizontal locations within the thermal allowing the storks to remain within the thermal. Using the motion of all flock members, we were able to examine the dynamic variation of airflow within the thermals, and to determine the specific environmental conditions surrounding the flock. With an increasing number of high-resolution GPS-tracking, we may soon be able to use these animals as distributed sensors providing us with a new means to obtain a detailed knowledge of our environment.This article is part of the theme issue ‘Collective movement in ecology: from emerging technologies to conservation and management’.