Thursday, February 21, 2013


For about a month now I've been trying and failing to get a decent picture of a murmuration (flock) of starlings, but so far no luck. I see them fairly frequently, but my poor phone camera just can't begin to give you any idea of what I'm seeing. For instance, there are probably about five times as many birds in these pictures as you can see. The day I took these pictures, I parked the car and almost ran down the road trying to catch them, but they always got ahead of me. 

The other day I was driving home, and when I turned a corner, there were a couple of hundred flying low across the road in front of the car. I just stopped in the middle of the road, but by the time I got the camera ready, this was the best I could do.

The flocks have not been particularly large this year, but I have really been enjoying them. I know that if they decide to hang out in the city, they can make a big mess and irritate people, but in the country, they are just beautiful, if sometimes quite loud. Sometimes they come an perch in the little woods on our property line and  they really make a lot of racket. That hasn't happened this year.

One day last year, I looked out of my kitchen window and the field on the side of my house was black with them. They are really fascinating to watch. As soon as feet of one wave touch down in front of the flock, the rearguard rises up and comes forward. It's like a big, sinuous, continuous loop moving slowly forward. After I had watched them for a while, I had to leave, and as I was approaching the end of my road, a huge black swirl rose up from the fields, dipped and circled over my car for a bit and flew off. It was lovely.

I have never seen a murmuration as large as the one in the video below in my area, but we used to pass a very large field on our way to work where there would sometimes be thousands of starlings. Unfortunately, someone has now built a huge, ugly, block of a warehouse on the field and the birds don't land there anymore. We also used to see several very large murmurations when our children were younger and we would drive through Arkansas on vacation. Sometimes we would see one after another for over an hour.

There are several videos of murmurations on the internet, and some of them are technically better, but I like this one almost as much for the reaction of one of the young women as for the performance of the starlings. 

There are some really great still shots of murmurations here.



  1. Wow. That's beautiful. I thought I had seen some big flocks of starlings or blackbirds, but nothing more than a twentieth at most of that size.

    Once I was driving to work with some music by Ornette Coleman playing when I saw one of those very much smaller versions of something like this. It's very wild unstructured music, but there was a period of maybe 10 seconds or so when the shifting movements of the flock seemed to be in sync with the music. It seemed like a glimpse of some hidden order.

  2. That sounds great.

    This makes me want to drive over to Arkansas and see if I can see a bunch.