Group Behavior of Flocks of Animals
by Ron Kurtus (updated 19 January 2022)
When you observe a flock of birds in flight, you can see they exhibit a certain group-behavior. The same can be said of a school of fish. This flocking behavior is actually the summation of several smaller behaviors. The rules for these behaviors seem fairly simple, such that the total group behavior can be demonstrated in a computer simulation.
Questions you may have include:
- What are the individual rules of behavior?
- What are the group rules of behavior?
- What is the computer simulation of this?
This lesson will answer those questions.
Individual behavioral rules
Through observation or general logic, you can establish some rules of behavior for an individual bird in flight or a fish. An individual bird will probably follow these rules:
- Motion is generally random
- If a bird sees one of its own kind, it will get near that bird
- If a bird gets close to an inanimate object or other similar bird, then it will move away
- If a bird gets close enough to a different type of bird, it will attack it
- If a bird is attacked by more than one bird, it will run away
Since there is the possibility of getting close to other birds, these rules lead into a group behavior.
Group behavioral rules
Applying the above rules to a group of similar birds (or fish), you can get e behavior for the whole group. One additional rule could be added to the group:
- The bird will match velocity with neighboring birds
- The bird will move toward center of group of neighboring birds
Simulation of behavior
These simple rules open the door to a simulation of the behavior of the group. This simulation can be seen in Simulation of Flocking Behavior. (Note that this is a Java application. You must have Java allowed in your browser to see it.)
By observing birds in flight, you can assume some rules for individual birds and for a flock of birds. The same holds true for a school of fish. There is a computer simulation of this behavior.
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Group Behavior of Flocks and Schools
Simulation of Flocking Behavior