Posted by: mynaturaldiary | November 17, 2019

Soup and Starlings 2019

This time of year we witness Starling murmurations at the RSPB reserve at Saltholme.

As the light falls at dusk, skeins of geese fly overhead.

Pink-footed goose (Anser brachyrhynchus)

Greylag goose (Anser anser)

The starlings appear and begin to gather in numbers, settling on the pylons.

Then a little later, the murmuration begins as the birds fly en masse.

Flocking behaviour is controlled by simple rules:

  1. Separation – avoid crowding neighbours (short range repulsion)
  2. Alignment – steer towards average heading of neighbours
  3. Cohesion – steer towards average position of neighbours (long range attraction)
  4. Avoidance – steer away from predators, causing the flock en masse to temporarily separate as each bird avoids the threat. Once the threat is removed, the behaviours (1-3) reassert themselves.

For Starlings, the movement of the flock is towards the reed beds, their overnight roosting ground.

Let’s see the murmuration in action.

Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)

They settle down into the reeds very quickly, and once there, they stay.

Away from the reed beds is a field, and in it lies a hare.

Hare (Lepus europaeus)

It’s clearly waiting for the darkness of night and the freedom to move.

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