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27 Oct

While on an early morning walk yesterday, I was fortunate to observe the beautiful sunrise in the east. As if overshadowing the sun’s brightness, however, I suddenly observed a swarm of thousands of black starlings flying past the face of the sun.  The coordinated and mesmerizing movement of starlings in the sky seemed to be at least a mile long in length.  So, not having written a blog since July, (I’m guessing I had writer’s block before, during, and after our move to a new location) I thought it would be interesting to research what it was that I had just witnessed and share the findings with my readers.

According to www.mnn.com, what I had seen was called a murmuration. I had been just beenwatching a shape-shifting cloud, a single being moving and twisting in unpredictable formations in the sky”. Some of these ‘clouds’ consist of thousands and maybe even millions of starlings, according to Mother Nature Network. How are they able, though, to move almost instantly in such coordinated movement, you might ask?

Starlings tend to roost in trees in large numbers as evening arrives. Whether then or in the early morning light, if they sense a nearby predator such as a hawk or a peregrine falcon, they all participate in a murmuration. In fact, if you look hard enough, you might even find the predator in the midst of the darkest, most dense looking area of the flock while in flight.“There is safety in numbers, so the individual starlings do not scatter, but rather are able to move as an intelligent cloud, feinting away from a diving raptor, thousands of birds changing direction almost simultaneously”. The size of the flock doesn’t matter and studies show that a huge flock is able to react to a predator as well as a small flock.

According to Mother Nature Network website, the team of scientists who researched murmurations found that each bird reacts to the seven birds nearest to it, and thus the liquidity of the cloud formation. Why seven? “It’s one of those numbers that just works in nature, and a systems-theoretic approach to studying starling flocks showed it.”

Interacting with six or seven neighbors optimizes the balance between group cohesiveness and individual effort, the researchers said.  Hmmmm….I wonder if that holds true in humans. 

I encourage you to watch the attached video of a murmuration in process. I’m certain you will find it as fascinating as I did while on my walk the other morning.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QOGCSBh3kmM

 

 

 

 


One Response to A Ballet of the Birds

  1. Beverly Viscariello

    October 27, 2016 at 5:11 pm

    It is a good day when I learn something new……your blog made this a good day! Very interesting and the video was amazing.

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