When most people think of a European starling, they think of urban places. These medium-sized black birds, first brought to North America by Shakespeare enthusiasts in the nineteenth century, are now one of the most successful invasive species and are among the most numerous songbirds on the continent, often living around people.
What many people don’t realize is that this invasive species when viewed together in flocks of sometimes hundreds of thousands of individuals, switches from being viewed as a pest to more of a wonder. These large groups of starlings swooping, diving, and pulsating in coordinated patterns are called “murmurations.” They can move so methodically due to physics more than biology. A single starling will try to match the speed and direction of its seven closest neighbors and ignores everything else. When combined with other groups of seven, the twists, dives, and pulses spread quickly throughout the flock making them appear as one unit.
Traveling in these large groups not only provides warmth at night for the birds, but it also helps deter predators. As dusk comes earlier and earlier as the winter goes on, don’t forget to look up at the sky to catch the wonder of murmurations.
Media Release/Alabama Outdoors