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Every year during autumn in northern Europe, Asia and N. America, thousands of starlings put on a spectacular show just before dusk in a phenomenon called murmurations.

A huge flock of migratory birds form a magical shape-shifting flight pattern.

Scientists aren’t sure how they do it. Even complex algorithmic models haven’t been able to explain the starlings’ acrobatics, which rely on the tiny bird’s reaction time of under 100 milliseconds to avoid aerial collisions—and predators—in the giant flock. The birds tend to flock together for protection and can reach speeds of up to 20 mph.

One starling. Image by Terry Sohl.

Be sure to watch at least one of the following videos.  I recommend all three.  They may well leave you in a peaceful state of awe.

This video is narrated if you want to both learn more and to have a musical accompaniment.

 

 

I’d say this is my favorite, set to Pachelbel’s Canon.  The swaying dance of the birds seems to magically keep time with the music.  Amazing.

 

Special thanks to amusing planet for many of the images and the first video.

The narrated and pachelbel videos are both by Dylan Winter.

 

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5 thoughts on “Murmuration

  1. Amazing, great! I have never seen anything like murmuration of starling birds. I have seen flock of swifts flying and different patterns they create, but starlings deserve the award. Who is the leader and how the change in direction and creation of pattern is decided by and conveyed to each other in such nano seconds. I do not think such choreography can be performed by humans. We , walking in the crowded street can not walk without bumping into one another!

    I have seen video of small fishes swimming in their thousands without being dashing into each other! and changing direction in nano seconds.
    Mainly for whom they are performing and why? It will remain mystery for ever.

    All three videos are great and deserve natural history magazine’s award if there is one.
    Thanks a million for sharing Dusky.

  2. Dusky—I often wonder what you can show us next to out-do the ones you’ve already shown! This might come close—it is marvelous! I want to plan a trip to this moor ASAP—it is beautiful.
    I loved the Canon accompaniment, also—it blended perfectly.
    Thanks for this amazing gift you give us! Lorie

  3. I saw one of these spectacles this morning as I was driving to work! Mad starlings doing their acrobatics over a newly ploughed field, edged with trees with leaves turning glowing red, golds and yellows. All reflected in the weak glow of an Autumn morning here on the east coast of Scotland.

    They also roost around my house and I enjoy their crazy chatter. It’s funny! They seem to disappear and then one day, I’ll hear them. Their vocal antics are audible indoors! I go out to my garden and there’s about 200 of them all hanging out on the washing lines and roof tops, all talking at once! They absolutely communicate with each other! Suddenly the starlings are back! I miss them when they’re gone.

    Thanks for posting this! I feel very lucky! xxx

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