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STARLINGS (we are one)

The Gretna starling display

The birds congregate at sunset, first in small groups and then in larger clusters, to form a mass of over one million birds creating elaborate shapes and patterns in the sky. Raptors such as sparrowhawks and peregrine falcons make an appearance to try and pick off a bird for supper. After an aerobatic display lasting for about 20 minutes, the starlings move towards a conifer plantation where they roost for the night.

It is a spectacle that occurs only during the winter and, until earlier this year, scientists were puzzled as to how exactly the birds were able to fly with such simultaneous precision.


They have since discovered that each bird tracks seven others, irrespective of their distance, which is how they stick together.British starling numbers are thought to have halved to four million in recent years, due in part to a declining insect population.But their gatherings – or murmurations – are boosted in the autumn by tens of millions escaping chillier Russia and Scandinavia, making this the best time of year to see them.

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Taken on November 15, 2009