Murmuration. What a delicious word! Witnessing a large starling murmuration is at least as satisfying as the sound of the word. It is a mesmerising dance of birds.
We spotted a beautiful murmuration a few days back when we were driving home from work. The 5pm February dusk was falling but it was not yet dark. We had seen small clouds of starling above a neighbourhood in the previous days at the same time and were gazing towards the horizon to check if they were still there. A dotted mass rose above the roofs, shrank back in, swirled and disappeared.
“There they are!”
“There’s a lot more than before!”
“Turn turn turn!”
We swung to the side road and drove to the spot above which the starlings were circulating. We parked the car and jumped out.
More birds joined the murmuration, the movement got more delicate. Stretching and shrinking, twisting, and circling. The murmur of the wings filled the air when the flok swooshed over us.
The synchronised dance continued for another 10 minuted before the birds, one by one, landed on the bushes behind the neighbourhood.
Starling murmurations happen regularly over the winter months here in England. Usually they murmurate just before the sunset, but it is never guaranteed that the birds perform their dance when you want to see it. The starling numbers have fallen during the past decades, so much so that they are now listed as at risk in the UK. According to RSBP the numbers have fallen over 80% in recent years due to farming and declining nesting sites.
I have added a video of this particular murmuration, but it is quite something to be there, to see them right in front of you. It is almost overwhelming, almost sinister, like magic.
- What: Starling murmuration – flocking of hundreds of birds
- Why: Maybe because of warmth or to avoid predation
- Where: England
- When: Winter evenings