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Murmurations of Starlings

  • 25 Nov 2008

Thanks for all your photos - here are a few of your recently uploaded pictures.

Report information

A flock of Starlings is called a "murmuration" - when thousands/millions of Starlings come together they swarm as if they are one organism. It's a “chorus line effect” – anticipating progress of the wave.

Individual members are anticipating what’s going to happen and they bank absolutely perfectly - as you can see in this clip. Things that look very complicated are actually following just a couple of very simple rules - they don’t want to be the first animal to go down to roost. Some Starlings do fly straight into roost and don’t take part in the displays.

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User comments

Cate Evans
I live in Warsaw and we are having an unseasonably mild winter. I am only just starting to see birds migrating South for the winter and this is the second week in December. I live near a public palace with ornamental lake and grounds and have a visiting pheasant. He comes to within half a metre of my patio windows and waits around for anything up to an hour! There is no sign of more of them in the open grounds of the palace. Would you suggest I could leave out food? And if so, what would you recommend? LOCATION: 52.250000,21.000000 DATE: Tue, 16 Dec 2008 18:48:10 UTC WOtM team: Some people grow fields of corn to feed up pheasant and they love this. They also like wheat, barley, uncooked rice and sunflower seeds. Other seeds may be good too, but please check with the seed supplier that they are suitable for your pheasant visitor.

Richard Vaux
I'd like to add some balance to your sanguine remarks regarding starling hordes that invade from the continent every autumn. I run a small family farm on the edge of the Somerset Levels and we see thousands of starlings decend (probably from Shapwick Heath reserve) on the farm to feed on the maize silage I feed to my livestock. Their antics have become such a problem that I am now considering ceasing to grow and feed maize. Their droppings contaminate the cattle feed, the buildings the cattle are housed in, in fact most things including the cattle themselves get covered in bird mess. I've tried various scaring tactics, nothing works for long as obviously the birds are hungry and this makes them brave. I very much look forward to the day when they return and the swallows take their place. Otherwise a very good 'must listen to' programme. Richard Vaux LOCATION: 51.0656,-2.7274 DATE: Thu, 4 Dec 2008 09:26:58 UTC

Donald Gilchrist
Are there any of these flocks of starlings in the Nottingham/Derby area? LOCATION: 52.8637,-1.3472 DATE: Thu, 04 Dec 2008 07:24:00 GMT

David, from North Tolsta, Isle of Lewis.
We have two distinct crowds of starlings, maybe one lot could be called a murmuration and they appear in the village each autumn presumably from points north, like the Faroes or Iceland and they hang around the crofts until the springtime, maybe a hundred or more, but then we have another group which although sometimes seem to accidentally mingle with the visitors, but these are almost certainly the residents, and generally keep themselves in their own varying groups of sometimes a dozen, sometimes up to thirty. These, in the springtime, as newly fledged birds, learn how to tackle hanging seed hoppers and fatballs. Their only serious competition is from House Sparrows, of which we have another thirty inm the garden regularly. Generally, the sparrows have allowed themselves to be dominated by the starlings as starlings will bully. However, today for the first time, I was amused to see two or three of the sparrows fighting back and actually repeatedly jumping on a starling's head as it was monopolising a newly filled seed hopper and they'd obviously deecided that it had been there long enough. They eventually managed to make it lose its balance and took over their prize with great gusto. It's surprising to watch as they take over the role of behaviour more associated with blue and great tits which we do not see just here, except as rare vagrants. They are to be seen in Stornoway, about 14 miles to the south, and one or two of the small wodland patches. However, our starlings definitely stay with all year. LOCATION: 58.2748,-6.3062 DATE: Wed, 3 Dec 2008 23:10:59 UTC

Louise Alban
I live a couple of miles south of Darlington and for the last 10 years or so, our part of our village has been home to a flock of starlings who seem to live here all year round. I've no idea how big the whole roost is but it is based in some tall trees about 400m away. Although I used to love starlings I'm afraid my patience and that of my neighbours has been much tried by their presence over the years. It's hard to maintain a positive interest when they settle in drifts over your lawn and garden, leaving droppings everywhere and literally stabbing and tearing apart your vegetables! And the noise they make has to be heard to be believed at times. During the day, they tend to separate into smaller groups, the size seeming to depend on the time of year, and feed on fields and gardens, congregating in trees and on wires, chattering enthusiastically until, at intervals, they fall silent, groups from several areas rising into the air, wheel around, often returning to the roost and then swoop back to settle on more trees nearby. In wet weather they seem to go elsewhere for the day, and there's a main thoroughfare across the fields to the rear of the garden between roost and local fields with telegraph wires across them. How common is it for starlings to maintain a presence year round? Everytime I have sought advice on the nuisance element I've been told that they will depart for some of the year, but it never seems to happen. We have partly solved the problem by reducing hedges and trees around the garden which they used as shelter if disturbed on lawn or vegetable patch and try to keep the lawn a little longer than we would otherwise do. I'm afraid the biologist and gardener elements in me are rather set at odds by these starlings! LOCATION: Not specified DATE: Tue, 2 Dec 2008 13:05:30 UTC

Caroline Wallbank
I live in Somerset near the famous Shapwick Heath roost.I Work in Street and can tell when the starlings are ready to display by the way they gather in the trees here before the flight down to Shapwick. They gather both in the trees and on the telephone wires above my head as I walk from my place of work. This causes me to wonder how far they will fly in a day to gather at the roosts. Also my friend and I have noticed that whenever a group land on the telephone wires, they all face the same way. Is this because of the way the wind is blowing? Surely it would make more sense if some faced in the opposite direction so that they are aware of possible danger! LOCATION: 51.1104,-2.7356 DATE: Sun, 30 Nov 2008 08:34:13 UTC

Lesley Dance
We put up a swift box a couple of years ago but starlings moved in straight away. They had no trouble at all working out how to get in and have been in residence ever since. Last week they started bringing straw into the box, surely they cannot be thinking of building a nest ? what do you think they are doing ?Although we have had no swifts I have become very attached to the starlings and love to hear them scrabbling about in the box (it is just outside our bedroom window) they are so lively and intelligent - I LOVE EM !!Lesley LOCATION: 51.7797,-0.9256 DATE: Thu, 27 Nov 2008 13:57:14 UTC

Peter de Groot
Back in the late 70s I researched into why birds like starlings form such spectacular roosts. Some fly 80 miles each way, so there must be a very good reason for them to spend so much energy every day. I tested a theory that the roost is an "information centre". The idea was that if a bird did not find a good source of food during the day, it could go back to the roost and be sure of finding birds that had fed well, and so feed well the next day. My experiments worked brilliantly. Birds could not only find the food, they could find the best food, and water. There is a lot going on in those murmurations. LOCATION: 51.500000,-0.116700 DATE: Thu, 27 Nov 2008 11:38:37 GMT

I used to watch the Starlings when I was a kid gather on Runcorn bridge before they put the bird scarers in. Over here they gather in the pine trees around the house, the whole place alive with chatter then they are off and you have to find some cover for fear of getting *** on from a great height.Although I havent seen them since October - have they all headed south too ? LOCATION: 58.9709,5.6003 DATE: Thu, 27 Nov 2008 11:33:15 UTC

Marion Dove
To the south of my house, in Dorset there are some unsightly gravel pits which are ruining the countryside and destroying habitat. However, one old pit has developed into a new reed bed, by accident or human design, I don`t know, but the starlings have moved in! For the last couple of weeks I have had the pleasure of watching flocks from all around come together to give us a fantastic, if relatively small, display before sunset - the sunsets have been beautiful too. LOCATION: 50.6972,-2.3625 DATE: Thu, 27 Nov 2008 11:15:03 GMT

Susan Bouchier
1110 Wednesday Nov. 26th 2008. Twelve or so starlings feeding on the lawn. First time I have seen them in ages. 3/4 minutes later all flew off - intimidated by a crow also on lawn? LOCATION: 51.3470,-0.1119 DATE: Wed, 26 Nov 2008 11:15:00 GMT

Ross Gibbs
We have a large murmuration of Starlings, visiting every evening. They finanally come to rest in the laurel hedge around our garden. It has been estimated that there is about 20,000. They chatter away well into the evening after coming to rest. I have emailed a selection of photographs, taken yesterday evening. LOCATION: 51.3169,-1.2881 DATE: Wed, 26 Nov 2008 09:07:01 UTC

James Jennings
I have the thankless task of supervising the street cleansing of Ipswich Town centre and on Saturday 15th November around 0530am I was drawn to a strange sound at the rear of a large shop in town. It turned out to be an ivy covered tree which seemed to be filled with several hundred starlings, they could certainly be heard although none could be seen - it brightened an early damp morning. Thanks, James LOCATION: 52.0643,1.1041 DATE: Tue, 25 Nov 2008 13:50:20 UTC

I have a very small group of starlings that have been with me since they hatched in the spring, feeding daily at my bird table and feeding station. From fledglings till now they have been like a bunch of unruly teenagers at the table squabbling for position, but feeding well - great fun to watch and I can always hear when they are there! The group consists of about a dozen, but I've found it difficult to make an accurate count. So far there hasn't, as far as I know, been any murmurations, but, then, I am disabled and unable to watch around sunset. I'll certainly miss their chatter and sqabbles when they do go. :( LOCATION: 53.1076,-2.2250 DATE: Tue, 25 Nov 2008 11:52:14 UTC

Sue Tait
We live a couple of miles from Bideford in North Devon where there is a huge flock of starlings which roost under the old bridge. To see them swirling and sweeping across the sky is unforgettable. It is a pity that Bideford is also famous for its New Year's Eve celebrations when the firework display is centred on the bridge, causing the birds to fly in panic, sometimes ricocheting off lamp-posts or even people. I attended the celebration only once but decided not to return as the sight was disturbing. LOCATION: 54.000000,-2.000000 DATE: Tue, 25 Nov 2008 11:48:13 UTC

Dirk Bouwens
At Riddlesworth Hall (built c 1900) in south Norfolk, there are cases of stuffed birds let into the walls. Behind the piano there is a case of oddities, white crows and such like. In the bottom corner there are two stuffed starlings. They are there because in 1900 starlings were believed to be becoming extinct because they were so rare. LOCATION: 51.916698,-2.566700 DATE: Tue, 25 Nov 2008 11:42:40 GMT

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