In winter, over Europe, massive starling flocks, from thousands to millions of birds, swarm, swoop, shift, swirl and twirl, moving as one while performing amazing aerial acrobatics. This extraordinarily beautiful ballet at dusk is a pre-roosting phenomenon known as starling murmuration. Although this is science, the phenomenon is more math and physics than biology.
This astonishing sequence was filmed by wild life cameraman and travel journalist Dylan Winter who is currently sailing around the UK in an 18 foot boat. You can follow his journey and see more of his work at www.keepturningleft.co.uk.
Incredible footage of a murmuration of a few thousand Starlings taken on 19th November 2011, at dusk, on a lovely clear day just off the coast of West Kirby, Wirral near Liverpool, UK.
In episode three of The Code, Marcus du Sautoy travels to Denmark to watch a flock of starlings as they make their annual migration from southern Europe to Scandinavia and marvels at their formation known as the black sun. He uses maths to explain how each bird only has to worry about the position of his seven nearest neighbours.
“What is remarkable about the starlings’ behaviour is that, despite all appearances, there is no choreographer and, as far as we know, no leader. Each individual bird is just following local rules. The numbers of individual birds in these flocks can run into thousands, yet they almost literally never collide. That is just as well for, given the speed at which they fly, any such impact would severely injure them. Often the whole flock seems to behave as a single individual, wheeling and turning as one. It can look as though the separate flocks are moving through each other in opposite directions, maintaining their coherence intact as separate flocks. This makes it seem almost miraculous, but actually the flocks are at different distances from the camera and do not literally move through each other. It adds to the aesthetic pleasure that the edges of the flocks are so sharply defined. They don’t peter off gradually, but come to an abrupt boundary. The density of the birds just inside the boundary is no less than in the middle of the flock, while it is zero outside the boundary.”
Richard Dawkins, “The Greatest Show on Earth”
Starlings 2013 https://vimeo.com/58119356
*** longer video in HD http://vimeo.com/19331820 ***
A fantastic natural phenomenon is filling the skies over Sterte every night as around 100,000 starlings form a black cloud.
This amazing sight over Poole as the light fades is attracting scores of bird watchers and photographers, all of whom are keen to capture the starling spectacle.
Last winter there were around 20,000 to 30,000 birds wheeling around the sky but this year the flock has grown enormously as more and more birds join in.