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Starling Murmarations

By Rachel on the 3rd April, 2018


Back in February we visited Shapwick Heath Nature Reserve, part of the Avalon Marshes in Somerset to attempt to see the starling murmarations. We were lucky enough to see the starlings coming in to roost, but what exactly is a starling murmaration and why do starlings do this?



What Are They and Why Do Starlings Do This

Starling Murmuration

A murmaration is basically a group or flock of starlings all coming together to roost. The murmarations can involve thousands to millions of starlings all moving together and swooping and diving as one.

There are several reasons why starlings roost in large numbers:

Safety

As one large flock they confuse predators making it difficult for one bird to be singled out as prey.

Warmth

Roosting in large nubers keeps the birds warmer over the winter months, which is one of the reasons we don’t see murmarations during the summer.

Information

It is thought that starlings exhange information whilst in these groups, for example learning about the best feeding sites.


When and Where Can You See Murmarations

Starling Murmuration

Murmarations can be seen during the Autumn and Winter, typically October to March, with the most birds usually between December and January when migrant European birds join our resident birds.

Murmarations take place just before dusk when starlings congregate before roosting, so most people head out at sunset to see the murmurations. Starling roosts move locations and so you can never be sure that you will see them, although many nature reserves have a good knowledge of where they are likey to roost. Starlings can also be seen leaving the roosts at sunrise and at that time you will know the location the starlings roosted the night before so have a greater possibility of seeing them.

Murmarations of various sizes can be seen all around Britain, however there are some well known locations where murmarations are regularly seen, for example the Avalon Marshes in Somerset. This article describes the nine best locations to see starling murmarations.


Author

Rachel

Rachel Barber

Rachel has an MSc (Distinction) in Ecology and Management of the Natural Environment from Bristol University. Prior to founding Smart Ecology Rachel worked for a respected Gloucestershire ecology consultancy and has also worked for a large multidisciplinary consultancy. Rachel is a full member of the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (MCIEEM). Rachel is an experienced ecologist specialised in European Protected Species (EPS). She holds survey licences for bats, hazel dormice and great crested newts.