Here’s another mystery of nature:
No one knows why they do it , yet each fall , thousands of starlings dance in the twilight above
England and Scotland . The birds gather in shape-shifting flocks called murmurations , having
migrated in the millions from Russia and Scandinavia to escape winter’s frigid bite . Scientistsaren’t
sure how they do it , either . The starlings’ murmurations are manifestations of swarm intelligence ,
which in different contexts is practised by schools of fish , swarms of bees , and colonies of ants ..
As far as I am aware , even complex algorithmic models haven’t yet explained the starlings’ aerobatics ,
which rely on the tiny birds’ quicksilver reaction time of under 100 milliseconds , to avoid aerial
collisions — and predators — in the giant flock . Despite their tour de force in the dusky sky , starlings
have declined significantly in the UK in recent years , perhaps because of a decline in suitable nesting
sites . The birds still roost in several of Britain’s rural pastures , however , settling down to sleep ,
(and chatter) , after their evening ballet .