This is a completely non-beekeeping post. Like many beekeepers, my interest in honey bees is rooted in a greater, general interest in nature, so I hope you enjoy this natural history post.
My friend Mary Parnell Carney (who takes most of the photos, and all of the good ones, on this webpage), posted a brief video on her Facebook page, (link further in this post), which she made of a starling murmuration –you have to be registered at facebook to view it. I recognized the phenomenon when I viewed her post and video, but had been unfamiliar with the word. First, a word about starlings: the starlings we see here in the United States are European starlings, Sturnus vulgaris, an introduced species – obviously from Europe. They have never been my favorite birds; they are aggressive, come to our feeders with lots of their friends, and crowd out the other birds. I now have a new appreciation of them, however due to Mary’s post and some subsequent research. The word murmuration means low continuous sounds or complaining noises, which describes – not starling vocalizations – but the sound of the wings of large groups in flight. But a starling murmuration is much more, involving the pattern of their flight when they gather in large numbers. Other birds exhibit this behavior, but starlings may be in a league of their own. These large flocks gather in the winter and serve as protection from birds of prey. The sheer numbers are what makes starlings unpopular, with me and others, due to the noise they create and the quantity of droppings they leave behind. After viewing Mary’s post and video, I looked up the term and conducted some quick internet research. I found some other videos, filmed in more wide open spaces, which lend themselves to better visibility even more spectacular displays. This is the one that made me go WOW and here is another which contains more information about starling murmuration. Do a Google search and you can find more. I now have a fresh perspective on starlings, but I still wish they would not roost over my car!