One problem, I think writers often overlook, is the problem of flying creatures communicating with each other. I call this the "I can't hear you over the sound of the f@cking headwind!"

For my world, this problem is present in three different species:

  1. Tengu, a race of humanoids with many bird-like features, including wings and beaks.
  2. Gryphons, hexapodal creatures with the head of an eagle or a corvid and the body of a large feline (usually either a lion, a tiger a cheetah or a lion-sized cheetah).
  3. Dragons, the six-limbed variant. They aren't that big, but definietly larger than a horse, though they're lighter and not much stronger (except for, ya know, the wings).

All three species have human levels of intelligence and possess airsacs, to help them cope with higher altitudes and make them lighter. Flight speed is around 16-20 m/s for them while gliding.

Now, they do speak the same language, but that isn't the only barrier between them. How can they successfully communicate while flying in an Earth-like atmosphere?

  • $\begingroup$ Can we take it that the tengu are also hexapods? $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 14, 2020 at 12:12
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @BLT-Bub Yes, we can. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 14, 2020 at 12:14
  • $\begingroup$ Are they flying too far apart for their bluetooth headsets to reach each other? Then just route the comms through their wifi and setup a Whatsapp chat........ or, is this a multi-species environment without tech? $\endgroup$
    – PcMan
    Commented Dec 26, 2020 at 7:01

2 Answers 2


Standard bird ear biology

Just because there's a strong headwind, doesn't mean that everything suddenly becomes inaudible. For humans sure, but human ears aren't designed to be able to hear at high airspeeds. For example, if you're riding a bike quickly, you can turn your head to the side and notice a significant drop in apparent headwind noise.

Moreover, birds are already adapted to be able to hear while flying. Owls, for example, have excellent hearing and can triangulate mouse heartbeats while flying. Simply take a look at bird-ear biology:

Owl ear

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    $\begingroup$ I love how grumpy that owl looks $\endgroup$
    – KeizerHarm
    Commented Mar 14, 2020 at 17:13

This is depending on the level of communication you want. Full on conversations aren't going to happen, but if you need commands similar to military or hunting, this can be done.

Hand/arm signs
Since all these species are hexapodal with human-like intelligence, its fair to say that they will have fairly fine motoric movement in their front limbs. Hand or arm waves similar as done with landing planes would be my first choice in this situation. They will need the leader up front with eyes on them at all times though. At night small lights could be used depending on your technology level, but this won't be too stealthy. This form of communication is already used by hunters, soldiers, and divers.

Perhaps more finicky to get right, but potentially more versatile. Dumb down the absolute necessities of language to a small amount of distinguishable screeches. These carry further than words or shouts, and are usable at night as opposed to the signals. These won't still be stealthy though.

Depending on your technology or magic level though, you could just use modified biker helmets with microphones, or magical signs.


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