A Murmuration of Starlings
One of Nature's Mysteries and Great Wonders
No one knows why they do it. Yet each fall, tens of thousands of starlings dance in the twilight above England and Scotland.
The birds gather in shape-shifting flocks called murmurations, having migrated in the millions from Russia and Scandinavia to escape winter's frigid bite. Scientists aren't sure how they do it, either.
The starlings' murmurations are manifestations of swarm intelligence, which in different contexts is practiced by schools of fish, swarms of bees and colonies of ants. As far as I am aware, even complex algorithmic models haven't yet explained the starlings' aerobatics, which rely on the tiny birds' quicksilver reaction time of under 100 milliseconds to avoid aerial collisions and predators in the giant flock.
Two young women were out for a late afternoon canoe ride and fortunately one of them remembered to bring her video camera. What they saw was a wonderful murmuration display, caught in this too-short video.