Tuesday, November 5, 2019

European Starling Murmuration at the West Campus of MJC

Sometimes the unexpected happens. I was a little frustrated with daylight savings cutting into my evening walking time between classes, but I went walking anyway and was treated to a fascinating sight: a Starling murmuration. Several thousand birds were doing an acrobatic flyover near the Briggsmore Ave/Highway 99 overpass, and it was hypnotizing (which was probably the intended effect, but in regards to predators wanting to pick off an isolated bird). Despite the very poor light conditions, I was able to get two minutes of video (below).

It's amazing how the birds can fly in such coordination, creating strange patterns in the sky, looking almost like a single organism. At times I imagined single cells separating and coming together again, and a bird tornado. Studies suggest the birds maintain their coordination by concentrating on the activity of the nearest seven birds around them.

European Starlings are an anathema to many birders and ecologists. They are native to Europe (hence the name), but a few were introduced to Central Park in New York City more than a century ago as an effort to establish all the birds mentioned in the works of Shakespeare. The idea went awry and the birds spread across the continent by the tens of millions. They are often the most numerous birds I record on my birding explorations, and they have displaced native species in many habitats. All bad, but forgotten in a moment of pure natural art.

No comments:

Post a Comment