the starling hawk dance
October 30, 2019 8:59 AM   Subscribe

Breaking a murmuration " The hunters typically came in low and motored upwind, pushing the starlings up. The targets always stayed in formation to keep away from the assailants' talons: “It’s everybody for themselves” in pulling for the safest position, [Nick]Dunlop says. They’d veer and weave to throw the predator of their tails, and more often than not, the raptors would give up. "
posted by dhruva (10 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Well shit that's cool.
posted by dazed_one at 9:25 AM on October 30, 2019 [2 favorites]

incredible beauty. I have been so fortunate to see two large murmurations in my life. its one of the most gorgeous things I've ever seen.

I may have told this story hear before, but the first one was over the San Francisco embarcadero. I'd been on a walk with friends, it was superbowl sunday. we happened to pass a sports bar and a few people were outside having a smoke. we looked up to see hundreds of thousands of starlings in a massive murmuration. everyone was standing there looking up with mouths agape. no one was running back inside to catch the game. utterly captivating!!!
posted by supermedusa at 9:26 AM on October 30, 2019 [3 favorites]

Fantastic. Thanks for bringing this to me today.
posted by brambleboy at 9:29 AM on October 30, 2019

Amazing! Thank you so much for posting this.
posted by Jesse the K at 11:14 AM on October 30, 2019

Whoa. I'd heard the point of the behavior was to disorient potential predators, and it sort of made sense to me that it'd work, but I've never seen it in action like that. That is extremely cool.
posted by Phobos the Space Potato at 1:00 PM on October 30, 2019

If you haven't see it before, this video is magical.
posted by Schadenfreude at 1:06 PM on October 30, 2019

point of the behavior was to disorient potential predators

You can see the same effect in this video of a shoal of fish avoiding sharks
posted by dhruva at 1:18 PM on October 30, 2019

That's really neat to see. They are an invasive species here, and I've only ever seen them in smaller flocks.
posted by Dip Flash at 4:54 PM on October 30, 2019

Growing up in southeastern Michigan, it was (and probably still is) a very common sight to see murmurations of starlings swirl across the suburban skies at the right time of year. I want to say it's most common in late summer or early fall?* About 20% of the flocks are harassed by hungry raptors.

It was so frequent in my youth, that the various viral videos of vaunting vulgaris [sturnus vulgaris, that is] struck me as bordering on mundane. Surely everyone saw this kind of thing before, right? Turns out I had a privileged upbringing, in this regard.

* My favorite spots would be Greenfield road between 10 and 12 Mile, and a several mile stretch of I-75 around Exit 69, Big Beaver Road. The hour before sunset seemed to be a good time.
posted by Enkidude at 2:34 AM on October 31, 2019

I don't have a cite for this, but I think one can be found, the story I remember is this:
Back in the early days of written language, when pictograms stood in for spoken words, a calligrapher was watching the changing shapes made by flocking and swarming birds. Cranes, as I recall, in linear patterns. What do these many different shapes mean? Why, they could mean anything! And thus the beginning of conventional symbolic writing began.
posted by StickyCarpet at 8:41 AM on November 1, 2019

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