Nature Diary: A murmuration of starlings
Thousands of starlings swirling through the skies is one of nature’s most wonderful sights
The best time to see a murmuration is just before dusk on a fine, cold winter evening. Photograph: Getty Images
Starling murmurations are among nature’s most wonderful sights. Made up of hundreds to thousands of starlings swirling through the skies together, the murmurations occur just before the starlings swoop down and settle into their roost for the night.
Starlings form these large groups both to protect themselves against predators and to keep warm on winter evenings. Bird-watching experts (known as birders) have discovered that each starling follows the movement of six or seven other birds flying closest to them so if one bird changes speed, the others follow suit.
This ripples through the murmuration and means that they are able to fly at speeds of around 32km/h without crashing into each other in mid air.
Although their numbers have declined hugely in recent years, starlings continue to roost in sheltered spots in woodland, on cliffs and buildings. The best time to see a murmuration is just before dusk on a fine, cold winter evening.