A setting sun, a cloudy blue sky, a view of a large body of water and a phenomenal show by birds dancing around in unison -- what more could one want? A woman named Maud recently shared such a video on Twitter featuring unbelievable murmuration of starlings over the water.
Over hundreds of low flying starlings move and follow one another in crisp formations, forming waves and spheres and other fascinating shapes as they partake in their tradition.
The birds seem to have practised this intricate dance as they know exactly when to turn, when to lift, whom to follow, and so on while twisting, turning, swirling, and twirling into intricate patterns.
The video, simply titled “Murmurations tonight. Breathtaking.” – is exactly that. It has been viewed over 4 million times on Twitter with lakhs of likes and retweets. The video must have been shot in a calm city without any noise disturbance as the natural sound of the starlings whooshing through the air like a symphony is quite evident. Along with the subtle sound of the waves, the starlings, and the background the video is aesthetically and aurally quite pleasing.
If you are wondering why the birds seem to be mimicking some intricate Cirque du Soleil routine, it is actually a defence mechanism. According to NPR, George F. Young researched this phenomenon extensively. The study was instigated by, “remarkable ability [of the starlings] to maintain cohesion as a group in highly uncertain environments and with limited, noisy information.”
They studied flocks ranging from 700 to 4000. What pattern emerged was that each bird attended seven neighbours. According to Lancashire Wildlife Trust, this is done because there’s safety in numbers and this way starlings can be secure from predatory birds. When the sun is about to set, starlings go for one last sweep over their roosts and do so in groups like this. However, a lot is still unknown about their communication, instincts, and the exact reason for these formations.