A biologist explains the science of murmurations

murmurations has no leader and does not follow any plan.

It’s amazing to see a swarm of starlings transform into a murmuration. Up to 750,000 birds join together in the flight. Birds scatter and gather. The herd separates from each other and fuses together again. The Murmurations is constantly changing direction, flying at a height of a few hundred meters, then getting smaller down until it almost hits the ground. They look like point swirls, make tears, octagons, columns and other shapes. Puff can move fast – starlings fly at speeds of up to 50 miles per hour (80 kilometers per hour).

European starlings or common starlings, like many birds, form groups called flocks when foraging or migrating. But grumbling is different. This particular type of flock is so named because of the low murmur of thousands of flapping wings and soft flight calls.

Puffs form about an hour before sunset in fall, winter, and early spring, when birds are near where they sleep. After about 45 minutes of this amazing air show, the birds descend at once to their place all night long.

Why do starlings form puffs?

Unlike the V configurations of migratory geese, the puffs do not provide any aerodynamic advantage.

Scientists believe the babble is a visual invitation to attract other starlings to join a nocturnal group. One theory is that spending the night together makes starlings warmer as they share their body heat. It may also reduce the chance of a single bird being eaten overnight by a predator such as an owl or a marten.

This dilution effect may be part of the reason the puffs occur: the more starlings in a flock, the less risk to any bird from being a bird hit by a predator. Predators are more likely to catch the nearest prey, so a whirl of hum can occur as individual birds attempt to move toward the safer middle of the crowd. The selfish herd effect is what scientist call this.

Of course, the more birds in the flock, the more eyes and ears there are to detect a predator before it is too late.

And the huge mass of circling birds can make it difficult to focus on a single target. A hawk or hawk can become disoriented and disoriented by the difficult wave patterns of its babbling movements. Care must also be taken not to collide with the herd and get hurt.

More than 3,000 volunteer scientists reported discovering a dive in a recent study. A third of them saw a bird of prey attack the murmur.  This observation suggests that the murmurs do indeed form to help protect the birds from predators—but it’s also possible that the gigantic murmur is what attracts a falcon, for example, in the first place.

How do starlings coordinate their behavior?

Hum has no leader and does not follow any plan. Instead, scientists believe the movements are coordinated by starlings who keep an eye on what others around them are doing. The birds in the middle can see through the flock from all sides to its edge and beyond. Somehow they keep track of how the herd as a whole moves and adapt accordingly.

To find out what is happening inside the ado, some researchers are filming it with several cameras at the same time. They then use computer software to track the movements of individual starlings and create 3D models of the flock.

The videos reveal that the birds are not as densely populated as they might appear from the ground; There is room for maneuver. Starlings are closer to their neighbors than in front of them or behind. Starlings on the ledge often move deeper into the herd.

Mathematicians and computer scientists are trying to create hypothetical puffs using rules that birds in a flock might follow — such as moving in the same direction as their neighbor, staying close and not colliding. With this simulation, it seems like each bird must track seven neighbors and adapt based on what they’re doing to prevent the hum from collapsing into a chaotic mess. All this are done while flying as fast as they can.

Groups of large fish can appear to act like puffs, as do groups of some swarming insects, including honeybees. All of these simultaneous movements can occur so rapidly within flocks, flocks, swarms and schools that some scholars have thought required animal hydroelectric precipitators!

Biologists, mathematicians, physicists, computer scientists, and engineers are all working to figure out how animals perform these performances. Curiosity drives this research, of course. But it may also have practical applications as well, such as helping to develop self-driving vehicles that can travel in tight formation and work in coordinated groups without crashing.

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