Murmurations are a large group of starlings that twist, turn, swoop and swirl across the sky in heavenly shape-shifting clouds.
Earlier in the evening, small groups of starlings from the same area came together above a shared nest. The group became larger, moving in unison in an aerial dance toss to the grand outlines against the fading sunlight.
Starlings are called ‘partial migrants’: birds that move to some places and not to others. Our starlings tend to stay put while those from colder countries in eastern Europe head to our shores, swelling their numbers during autumn and winter to create a truly awe-inspiring experience.
The researchers believe that the murmuration will give security and protection from predators such as peregrine falcons that are attracted to large numbers of birds. After all, it is not so easy to distinguish between a starling and a circular group of hundreds or thousands! Experts still can’t believe how each starling knows which way to go without bumping into the other starlings.
#Murmurations always form over the birds’ shared nest. As the number of starlings reaches the topmost height and the last of the daylight begins to fade, an unknown signal seems to tell the group to funnel towards the ground with one last sweeping motion and a soothing whoosh of wings. Roosts can be anything from sharp to a seaside pier where the group can snuggle up together for warmth and talk about the best feeding grounds.
The birds need to gather together at hotter places and roost in close proximity to survive. Starlings can roost themselves into a roosting site – reed beds, dense hedges, human structures like scaffolds – at more than 500 birds per cubic metre, sometimes in flocks of several thousand.
A large crowd of birds would be an attractive target for predators. No bird wants to be killed off, so security in numbers is the rule they follow, and swirling masses create a disorientating effect to avoid a single bird being targeted.
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