On a cold autumn day, Sophie Windsor Clive and her friend Liberty Smith decided to go for a nice canoetrip on the river shannon in Ireland. They thought it would be fun to film that day and decided to bring their camera along, not knowing that within days their to-be taken shots of a starling murmuration would amaze millions of people across the world.
The synchronous movements of large flocks of starlings are definitely one of the most aesthetic pleasures nature can give. Roaming the sky in immense numbers, these starling flocks remain incredible cohesive, often resulting in amazing formations.
The secret behind these 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 where each bird keeps track of the position of its closest neighbours.
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, the tight sphere-like formations of starlings constantly swirl and change to confuse predators.
This video is absolutely amazing and one of its kind due to it being filmed above the water which gives the benefit of a much wider view and the birds coming closer to the surface. And the 4.5+ million people that have watched it since the two weeks of its existence probably agree!
For more photos and videos of the amazing shapes starling murmurations might have, see my other starling post here.