[Tweeters] Re: Murmuration

Jason Hernandez jason.hernandez74 at yahoo.com
Wed Jan 1 09:53:12 PST 2014


Growing up in Rhode Island, I used to see this all the time, especially in late fall and into winter.  At the time, I believed they migrated in such great murmurations.

Kevin wrote: "Even "dull birds" have interesting
behaviors!"  That's right -- really, there are no dull birds; it is just that "familiarity breeds contempt," i.e. the birds we always see a lot of, we come to think of as "dull."  Who knows -- maybe one day I will learn of a good reason to pay attention to juncos...

Jason Hernandez


Date: Mon, 30 Dec 2013 15:25:57 -0800
From: Kevin Purcell <kevinpurcell at pobox.com>
Subject: Re: [Tweeters] Murmuration
To: Pamela Myers <pamelapiwo6813 at aol.com>
Cc: Kevin Purcell <kevinpurcell at pobox.com>,    Tweeters
    <tweeters at u.washington.edu>
Message-ID: <FC89C28D-6889-46D9-ACC1-768F708809CA at pobox.com>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii"

On Dec 27, 2013, at 8:58 AM, Pamela Myers wrote:


>

About 4:00 yesterday afternoon, I watched a murmuration of STARLINGS in
Marysville, WA for nearly 30 minutes. It started with a flock of
probably 50 birds, but smaller groups kept coming and joining in until
their must have been 600+ birds. Except on video, I've never seen this
magical phemomenon. To use a hackneyed adjective, it was absolutely
awesome. What are they doing? It seems that scientists really don't
know. Looked to me like they were just having fun!

>

> Pam Myers

> Santa Cruz, CA


It
is understood what murmurating starlings are doing:  they're first
accumulating a large group of starlings then group selecting a safe
place for the night roost.

In their natural habitat in Europe
they murmurated over reedbeds picking out an area then dropping into
very rapidly. Urban starlings use piers, bridges, building ledges and
urban trees as night roosts. Even the structure of the night roost has
been investigated (thermal video cameras really help this work) with
juvi birds in the colder or more vulnerable positions on the edges and
the adult birds in the center (or in the center of groups).

This
used to be common phenomena in Downtown Seattle when I first arrived
(early 1990s) when you could see them murrmurating around the
skyscrapers to pick a roost on the waterfront. Sometimes with a
Perigrine looking for dinner.

My most interesting murmuration
experience was being in the middle of the "fall out" to the roost. I was
on one of the piers on the Seattle waterfront (mid-90s? Pier 62 or Pier
63?) watching a murmuration sweep up and down the waterfront when they
finally selected the underneath of that pier to roost and "fell out"
right above me. The noise of probably hundreds to even low thousands of
starlings dropping out of the sky into their roost under the pier a
couple of meters from me was truly awesome (it filled me with awe).

A
similar (but less spectacular as the flocks are smaller and lower)
group selection process can be seen in the lowly rock pigeon at dusk too
when selecting a night roost. Even "dull birds" have interesting
behaviors!

--
Kevin Purcell    (Capitol Hill, Seattle, WA)
kevinpurcell at pobox.com  |  @kevinpurcell
http://flic.kr/kevin_g_purcell


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