Sunday, July 13, 2008

Spooky formation flying

This video shows a flock of starlings flying in a cloudy evening sky.

I wish I knew how they were able to anticipate one anothers' movements, and stay together like that. Who's the leader who decides on direction? How do they avoid colliding with one another in so dense a flock? What makes them behave like this?

Nature's amazing, isn't it?



Transmontanus said...

Absolutely beautiful thing to watch.

I wish I could find a link, but in the meantime, I did once read an ornithological explanation for one or two of your questions. Each bird tries to maintain a particular distance from the birds around him, and by this individual action, multiplied among hundreds (thousands?) of birds, you get that bizarre lava-lamp effect. So no "leader" as such; it's pretty random.

Evil Lunch Lady said...

Amazing and kind of creepy! Thanks for the interesting video:)

Rogue Medic said...

There is an explanation of how this works in the book Prey by Michael Crichton. If you like his books, you will enjoy this. If not, his books and those of most medical/science writers start off with an interesting concept, but tend to fall apart when they try to come up with a conclusion that works.

There is no artistic thought process, but just a flocking movement. When this happens in large enough groups, it gives the appearance of higher level thought coordinating it. Part of the reason it looks so well coordinated is that we are viewing it from a distance and do not see the many corrections that are made to keep in formation. Viewed from much closer, it would have a different type of appeal.

Wikipedia also gives a good description in the entry Flocking (behavior).

Steve said...

The sudden starting, stopping, dying and then flying reminds me much of when I tried to teach my wife to drive a manual transmission!!!

I am not sure which is more amazing - the flock's flight, or the fact that the recorder's lense (and presumably the operator, since the frame didn't flinch or jump) stayed clean when the Starlings flew overhead!

Thanks for the video!