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Birds are a liquid
November 12, 2009 8:25 AM   Subscribe

Birds are a liquid. One video. One minute. 300,000 starlings. (via)
posted by maudlin (51 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
wait til it starts raining
posted by pyramid termite at 8:29 AM on November 12, 2009




They say that flocks of passenger pigeons used to block out the sun for hours at a time.

Well, we taught them a lesson for blocking our sun, eh?
posted by Joe Beese at 8:31 AM on November 12, 2009 [7 favorites]


Thanks, Shakespeare!
posted by mccarty.tim at 8:31 AM on November 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


Those birds just designed about a million viable corporate logos.

One might as well ask what birds are. What are birds? We just don't know.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 8:36 AM on November 12, 2009 [9 favorites]


Gives me the heebie jeebies.
posted by autodidact at 8:37 AM on November 12, 2009


"You're following me? I thought I was following you."

Fascinating. There are likely many human activities that operate in this fashion--from the stock market to war.
Things are moving too fast for the followers to determine if the leaders know what the hell they are doing.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 8:38 AM on November 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Phew. I was afraid this was a new episode of Will It Blend?
posted by rokusan at 8:42 AM on November 12, 2009 [15 favorites]


I hate starlings, but boy it's beautiful to see that.
posted by rtha at 8:42 AM on November 12, 2009


Weren't van Gogh's last paintings of birds doing this. I find it unsettling. Kill them with fire.
posted by RussHy at 8:44 AM on November 12, 2009


Phew. I was afraid this was a new episode of Will It Blend?
Nah, that post was deleted.
posted by odinsdream at 8:44 AM on November 12, 2009


Phew. I was afraid this was a new episode of Will It Blend?

I was thinking more video on the side of jet engines...
posted by yeloson at 8:47 AM on November 12, 2009


Am I the only one wondering what a shop vac or a leaf blower would would add to this equation?
posted by bondcliff at 8:48 AM on November 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


How the heck do they manage not to all die from horrible midair collisions? So crazy. Great video.
posted by heyho at 8:52 AM on November 12, 2009


Welcome to the South Congress HEB at 6 o'clock.

/Austin joke
posted by fontophilic at 8:57 AM on November 12, 2009 [7 favorites]


Who counted them? how do we KNOW there were 300,000? And, don't you all find it a bit odd that it was EXACTLY 300,000 and not something like 300,052?
posted by HuronBob at 9:02 AM on November 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


something like 12 years ago on superbowl sunday in san francisco I saw a flock of these birds doing their maneuvers. it was incredible. people were standing on the street with their necks craned and their mouths hanging open as hundreds of thousands of birds swooped and blobbed and swirled. it was really really beautiful.
posted by supermedusa at 9:03 AM on November 12, 2009


Well, I guess glibness is a great way to avoid expressing childlike wonder.
posted by voronoi at 9:05 AM on November 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


my favorite part is when they form the shape of one giant bird and the giant bird bites the cat and the cat goes "YOOOWWL"
posted by Greg Nog at 9:12 AM on November 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


God I hate starlings. Hate them. Hate them as much as I hate doves, but for totally different reasons. You have NEVER had a bad morning until you've woken up with a flock that size roosting in the oak trees outside your bedroom. I wished mightily for some napalm every morning that happened.
posted by strixus at 9:13 AM on November 12, 2009


Who counted them? how do we KNOW there were 300,000? And, don't you all find it a bit odd that it was EXACTLY 300,000 and not something like 300,052?

I've wondered this as well. Is there an algorithm for bird-counting? If they block out the sun, you know there's at least 500K birds in that flock?
posted by longdaysjourney at 9:19 AM on November 12, 2009


Actually, it's the Brangelina of starlings and 299,998 paparazzi starlings.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 9:27 AM on November 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


I believe that's what they call "precursor to attack."



Also...stupid birds. Just fly straight. I walk straight all the time.* IT ISN'T HARD. GEEEZ.


*I'd fly, but I always remember to fall.
posted by Atreides at 9:30 AM on November 12, 2009




Weren't van Gogh's last paintings of birds doing this. I find it unsettling. Kill them with fire.

Are you thinking of Wheat Field With Crows? He painted it just a few weeks before his death, and the crows do seem to portend his imminent demise.
posted by ekroh at 10:03 AM on November 12, 2009


heyho: How the heck do they manage not to all die from horrible midair collisions?

They've learned to throw themselves at the other birds, and miss.
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:06 AM on November 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


More a fluidized bed than a liquid, really.
posted by mr_roboto at 10:24 AM on November 12, 2009


You have NEVER had a bad morning until you've woken up with a flock that size roosting in the oak trees outside your bedroom.

I once had a pair of starlings and their... starlets? nesting in the dryer vent duct of the apartment over me, right over my bedroom.

It was hell.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:26 AM on November 12, 2009


Like a giant jellyfish in the sky.....
posted by fancyoats at 10:27 AM on November 12, 2009


Who counted them? how do we KNOW there were 300,000?

The only accepted method is to count the legs and divide by two.
posted by quercus at 10:30 AM on November 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


Can someone explain why they do it? Is it some accident of nature - they lose track fo what direction they are going in - or is there some important social function for them?
posted by marmaduke_yaverland at 10:37 AM on November 12, 2009


Who counted them? how do we KNOW there were 300,000?

Well, this is indeed the web, where we can bask in pseudo-anonymity and not have to worry about being called out on misinformation and hyperbole. I say he should have put "300 million starlings" so he could get noticed by the Daily Sun, Ananova, etc.
posted by crapmatic at 10:39 AM on November 12, 2009


man, that would freak me the fuck out if i saw that up close.
posted by empath at 10:40 AM on November 12, 2009


Dawkins used screengrabs of this flock in his latest book. (Pretty sure it was from this video. I know it was credited to someone on YouTube.)
posted by caution live frogs at 10:41 AM on November 12, 2009


Can someone explain why they do it?

Makes it harder for hawks and falcons to swoop in and pick off individuals.
posted by empath at 10:45 AM on November 12, 2009


my favorite part is when they form the shape of one giant bird and the giant bird bites the cat and the cat goes "YOOOWWL"


http://www.sleepycat-gallery.com/photo_4919570.html
posted by gummo at 10:50 AM on November 12, 2009


This didn't work as well with the benny hillifier as I had hoped.
posted by Crash at 11:06 AM on November 12, 2009


Benny Hill didn't work, but the epic soundtrack is a much needed improvement.
posted by Crash at 11:07 AM on November 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


FLUID. Birds are a FLUID. Not a liquid. Is this the posting equivalent of l'esprit d'escalier?
posted by maudlin at 11:37 AM on November 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Dawkins used screengrabs of this flock in his latest book.

"Fig. 5: I take back everything I've said about religion -- dark, malevolent forces are at work here. Repent now before it's too fucking late."
posted by naju at 11:39 AM on November 12, 2009 [4 favorites]


Rather amazing- real flocking behavior is so much more convincing than even the best cg particle systems, for rather obvious reasons - but sadly, I wouldn't be surprised if it shows up somewhere as "weird Mexican UFO". Just add a blur filter, and voíla: instant interdimensional critter.
posted by dbiedny at 12:27 PM on November 12, 2009


It's the smoke monster from Lost!
posted by jschu at 12:51 PM on November 12, 2009


I shot something similar over Piazza della Repubblica in Rome.
posted by Zambrano at 1:35 PM on November 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


I used to have a screensaver that looked just like that. Kinda. Although the first thing I thought was the same as jschu, above...
posted by Chunder at 1:49 PM on November 12, 2009


Ha! I can remember seeing birds do this over the playground one day when I was in about 2nd or 3rd grade. It was both awesome and spooky at the same time. I always kinda wondered if that was a real memory, because it was so bizarre and I'd never seen it since. I may have to reevaluate some memories of Santa now too.
posted by gueneverey at 3:59 PM on November 12, 2009


You see? This is just another reason why I hate birds.
posted by chara at 6:11 PM on November 12, 2009


The Great Scarf of Birds – John Updike

Playing golf on Cape Ann in October,
I saw something to remember.
Ripe apples were caught like red fish in nets
of their branches. The maples
were colored like apples,
part orange and red, part green.
The elms, already transparent trees,
seemed swaying vases full of sky. The sky
was dramatic with great straggling V’s
of geese streaming south, mare’s-tails above them.
Their trumpeting made us look up and around.
The course sloped into salt marshes,
and this seemed to cause the abundance of birds.

As if out of the Bible
or science fiction,
a cloud appeared, a cloud of dots
like iron fillings which a magnet
underneath the paper undulates.
It dartingly darkened in spots,
paled, pulsed, compressed, distended, yet
held an identity firm: a flock
of starlings, as much one thing as a rock.

One will moved above the tress
the liquid and hesitant drift.
Come nearer, it became less marvelous,
more legible, and merely huge.
“I never saw so many birds!” my friend exclaimed.

We returned our eyes to the game.
Later, as Lot’s wife must have done,
in a pause of walking, not thinking
of calling down a consequence,
I lazily looked around.


The rise of the fairway above was tinted,
so evenly tinted I might not have noticed
but that at the rim of the delicate shadow
the starlings were thicker and outlined the flock
as an inkstain in drying pronounces its edges.
The gradual rise of green was vastly covered;
I had thought nothing in nature could be so broad
but grass.

And as
I watched, one bird,
prompted by accident or will to lead,
ceased resting; and, lifting in a casual billow,
the flock ascended as a lady’s scarf,
transparent, of gray, might be twitched
by one corner, drawn upward an then,
decided against, negligently tossed toward a chair:
the southward cloud withdrew into the air.

Long had it been since my heart
Had been lifted as it was by the lifting of that great
scarf.
posted by elmer benson at 9:13 PM on November 12, 2009 [5 favorites]


FLUID. Birds are a FLUID.

Thanks, that was getting to me.
posted by mendel at 9:34 PM on November 12, 2009


I'm always amazed that flocking behavior produces a cloud with such well-defined edges and some structure.
posted by hattifattener at 1:32 AM on November 13, 2009


Whew, marvelous post. (And love the Updike poem.) Birds are simply astonishing, from their hollow bones to, as demonstrated here, their incredible reaction times.
posted by bearwife at 3:07 PM on November 13, 2009


Starlings are beautiful as flocks from afar, annoying when in your yard, and downright ugly up close. Add me to the haters.
posted by intermod at 10:15 PM on November 13, 2009


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