By Bill Teale
Published on the 29 November 2014
Every autumn and winter, thousands of starlings flock together and swirl across the sky in one of nature’s most dramatic spectacles.
Birders visiting the RSPB’s Blacktoft Sands reserve near Goole to watch marsh and hen harriers coming in towards dusk have been entertained by the spectacle of an estimated 170,000 starlings giving this flying display as they come in to roost a little further down river at Alkborough Flats.
Why starlings perform these displays is not fully understood.
This winter the Society of Biology and University of Gloucestershire have launched a national starling murmuration survey to try and find out why they form and how long they last before the birds plunge down to roost.
It’s also hoped that information can be provided to help stem the decline in starling numbers; 66 per cent since the mid-1970s.
Older readers will recall the huge numbers that used to gather in city centres, much to the ire of local councils, now these are a thing of the past and the remaining starling roosts are in woods and reed beds.