The synchronous movements of large bird flocks such as enormous groups of starlings are definitely one of the most aesthetic pleasures nature can give. Roaming the sky in immense numbers – up to a million birds – starling flocks remain incredible cohesive which does not only offer a spectacular sight but often results in phenomenal shapes.
As a large group, the starlings benefit from safety in numbers and can feed more efficiently, which may be needed during the cold winter months. Just as fish swim in shoals for safety, starlings form tight, sphere-like formations that constantly swirl and change to confuse predators.
The secret behind the swirling formations is that they are self-organized dynamic systems: in a flock of starlings there isn’t a single leader, but the cohesion and movement of the group is created by the massive interaction among the birds. Each bird keeps track of the position of its seven closest neighbours. In this way, even though flocks under predator attack may expand dramatically, the birds can regroup very quickly.
Watch more starling flock movies at Mudfooted’ Youtube channel!