Video captures thousands of starlings flying together in stunning aerial ballet • Earth.com
On many evenings, thousands of starlings gather into massive flocks and perform an aerial ballet known as a murmuration before settling down to sleep.
01-02-2017

Video captures thousands of starlings flying together in stunning aerial ballet

In the video, thousands of starlings fly together, creating loops and whorls in what looks like a mesmerizing aerial ballet. The magnificent mass of birds separates, each part pirouetting around the other, then comes back together again.

The 30-second video, captured by amateur photographer Marco Campazas over Logrono City in Spain, shows the acrobatic masterpiece of flight known as a murmuration.

“I was driving my car and through the window noticed the birds,” Campasaz told SWNS, the independent news site that published his video. “I stopped straight away and filmed them. … I managed to capture the end of their display before they all landed and went to sleep for the evening.”

Starlings are small birds native to Europe, Asia, Africa, and parts of Australia. They’ve also been winging their way across North America ever since they were imported by a Shakespeare fanatic in New York in 1890. The fan wanted to introduce every bird mentioned by the Bard to the continent.

Wherever they are in the world, starlings are known for their massive flocks, including the incredible acrobatics they perform before settling down to sleep many evenings.

According to scientists, the displays – and the massive flocks generally – have both social and practical purposes:

  • Starlings have taken “safety in numbers” to an extreme. As a swarm grows to include thousands of starlings, each individual member is safer from predators.
  • The murmurations themselves appear to have started as a safety measure. When starlings gather in large flocks and swoop about erratically in an aerial ballet, it’s difficult for a bird of prey to focus on and capture any individual bird. In fact, ornithologists have often observed birds of prey near murmurations.
  • The exercise warms the birds up before they cluster together in their roosting spots. By gathering together, they can keep warm longer overnight.
  • Starlings also exchange information about good feeding locations and safe areas at night. That makes post-murmuration gatherings a great way to spread news.
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