Tag: Murmuration


Alex and Lisa have put together a remarkable video

Yesterday, in came an email from my son, Alex, about an amazing starling murmuration at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).

Lisa took the video and together they uploaded it to YouTube.


Having watched the amazing video I then did a little bit of research. I came quickly across the science of murmuration and have included it below.

Murmuration refers to the phenomenon that results when hundreds, sometimes thousands, of starlings fly in swooping, intricately coordinated patterns through the sky.

Maybe you’ve seen a murmuration video before. But this one is especially beautiful. It was shot earlier this month in Wales, at Cosmeston Lakes in the Vale of Glamorgan, and posted on Facebook by the BBC Cymru Wales. (It’s not included, Ed.)

It’s all about science. Just how do the starlings manage to fly in such an amazingly coordinated way?

A few years ago, George F. Young and his colleagues investigated starlings’ “remarkable ability to maintain cohesion as a group in highly uncertain environments and with limited, noisy information” — a nice description of what goes on in a murmuration.

Going in, Young et al. already knew that starlings pay attention to a fixed number of their neighbors in the flock, regardless of flock density — seven, to be exact. Their new contribution was to figure out that “when uncertainty in sensing is present, interacting with six or seven neighbors optimizes the balance between group cohesiveness and individual effort.”

Young et al. analyzed still shots from videos of starlings in flight (flock size ranging from 440 to 2,600), then used a highly mathematical approach and systems theory to reach their conclusion. Focusing on the birds’ ability to manage uncertainty while also maintaining consensus, they discovered that birds accomplish this (with the least effort) when each bird attends to seven neighbors.


Hope via Openness

Don Tapscott presents what might just be humanity’s salvation.

Millions of us, of all ages, are linked together in this new ‘wired’ world.  For old crusties such as myself, it’s all too easy to recall the days when the mention of the word ‘chip’ immediately brought to mind fried fish!  But we struggled into this new world and now can’t imagine how it was in those earlier days – anyone want to buy my old quill pen? 😉

There are huge benefits to this wonderful networked world and most days I read something on a website here or a blog there that opens my mind in unfathomable ways.  Not only that, but the number of friends, new and old, who co-operate with my attempts to show how integrity is the only way forward is humbling.

Thus it was that an old friend of many years, Lee C., sent me a link to a recent TED talk that revealed in just 17 minutes a message of hope for all of us.  It reminded me that our younger generation have their own knowledge, their own aspirations, their own fears and dreams.

Without more ado, watch it now!

The recent generations have been bathed in connecting technology from birth, says futurist Don Tapscott, and as a result the world is transforming into one that is far more open and transparent. In this inspiring talk, he lists the four core principles that show how this open world can be a far better place.

And weren’t those flocks of starlings just breathtaking?

Lee also sent me this:

Don Tapscott’s recent TED talk ends with footage of starlings in vast numbers which is referred to as a ‘murmuration’. I watched it just two nights or so ago. Tonight I went outside for a breath of fresh air (ok a call of nature) and this is part of what I saw. So pleased to have had my mobile phone in my shirt pocket.

Finally, I hadn’t come across Don Tapscott before but thanks again to this amazing world of shared information, a quick Google search finds Don’s own website here.

The mystery of nature.


English starling

Ginger I. who works at the Payson branch of the Humane Society of Central Arizona recently sent me the following video on the magic of a flock of starlings.  It’s … well, you watch it and fill in the rest of the sentence; I ran out of words.

A short film that follows the journey of two girls in a canoe on the River Shannon and how they stumble across one of nature’s greatest phenomenons; a murmuration of starlings.

A murmuration is a…

/merr’meuh ray”sheuhn/, n.

1. an act or instance of murmuring.

2. a flock of starlings.

Ginger also included the following in her email,

A mystery of nature:

No one knows why they do it. Yet each fall, 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 practised 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.

Despite their tour de force in the dusky sky, starlings have declined significantly in the UK in recent years, perhaps because of a decline in suitable nesting sites. The birds still roost in several of Britain’s rural pastures, however, settling down to sleep (and chatter) after their evening ballet.

Two young ladies 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 the short video above. Watch the variation of colour and intensity of the patterns that the birds make in close proximity to one other.

I also quickly found a second video on YouTube that seemed worthy of including in this Post.

This astonishing sequence was filmed by wild life cameraman and travel journalist Dylan Winter who is currently sailing around the UK in an 18 foot boat. You can follow his journey and see more of his work at www.keepturningleft.co.uk.

Now I know that as I get older I seem to be turning into an emotional mess!  But a very happy mess!  I mention this because both films had me in tears.  Why?  Not really sure.  But I sense that when one looks at such beauty, such real pure magical beauty, and then reflects on the stupidity, greed and shortsightedness of mankind the contrast is almost too much to handle!