Letter to the Editor: Murmuration

Those of you around Seaford last Saturday morning may have witnessed a huge flock of birds. I have never seen anything quite like it.

When I take my Chihuahua outside, I always look for hawks. That morning, I looked up and saw literally thousands of small birds flying in formation, rising and dipping in unison, as if in a choreographed dance. They headed in multiple directions with no break for several minutes, and then were gone.

When I came in, I Googled the phenomenon and learned a new word, “murmuration.” National Geographic published an article reporting the research of Svein Dale, a Norwegian professor of Life Sciences. Dale has studied the behavior
of birds, especially those threatened by extinction. He observed murmuration behavior in starlings and concluded that each bird moves in accordance with the nearest seven birds, as they swirl in synchronized movements. Birds have reflexes that far exceed ours, so what appears to be rapid changes in direction to us, is easy for them.

Norwegian scientists have attempted to determine reasons for the behavior. The most likely explanation is protection from predators. When birds fly together, each is less likely to become a victim. One European bird, the brambling, was observed in 1951-1952 in a flock of 70 million.

As more species become threatened, murmurations will likely become rarer. I hope you get the chance to see one, and do what I failed to do – have a camera in your hand. It is a wonderful show.

Fred Seth


2021-01-07T09:43:01-05:00 January 7th, 2021|Perspective|