Archive | November, 2011

The Murmuration of Starlings

4 Nov

The above photo is of a Starling, a small to medium-sized passerine bird from the family Sturnidae. It is a beautiful bird that is known to inhabitat all corners of the earth with the exception of the driest and sandiest deserts. However, other than being a quite attractive bird with the ability to mimic the sounds of dozens of other birds, Starlings are well known for their special migration habit known as a murmuration. 

The Telegraph on murmurations:

“A “murmuration” of starlings, as this phenomenon is known, must be one of the most magical, yet underrated, wildlife spectacles on display in winter. Impenetrable as the flock’s movements might seem to the human eye, the underlying maths is comparatively straightforward. Each bird strives to fly as close to its neighbours as possible, instantly copying any changes in speed or direction. As a result, tiny deviations by one bird are magnified and distorted by those surrounding it, creating rippling, swirling patterns. In other words, this is a classic case of mathematical chaos (larger shapes composed of infinitely varied smaller patterns). Whatever the science, however, it is difficult for the observer to think of it as anything other than some vast living entity.”

I have not seen a murmuration in quite sometime and I believe it to be a very rare sight here in the southeastern area of the United States. However, I was kindly reminded of how visually amazing a murmuration is while I was in class a few weeks back. My professer, Dr. Gregory Todd Jones, showed a few clips of a murmuration and related it to business, statistics, etc…  It was the first time in a long time that I had the chance to think back on my first sighting.

I can distinctly remember the first time when I saw the murmuration of Starlings. It was the summer of 2006 and I was studying abroad in Spain. I was riding in the back of a coach bus destined for the famous windmills of La Mancha. I was sitting in the aisle seat on the left hand side of the bus. However, I was facing and talking to some fellow students on the right hand side of the bus and had a great view of the Spanish countryside behind them. In mid conversation, something in the distance caught my eye and I quickly stood up to check it out. It was a wave of Estorninos (Spanish for Starlings) and looked very similar to this.


I was absolutely mesmerized. It was so visually appealling that I could not take my eyes off the horizon. I truly never wanted it to end. What is so great is that I came across the following video, of two two girls canoeing, the way they react was the way I did. The feelings of my first sighting came rushing back. I hope you enjoy!


More videos from Sophie Windsor Clive can be found here:

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