are starlings the only birds that murmuration

The European or common starling, Sturnus vulgaris, is a familiar sight in our cities and towns. You might have seen one hopping around looking for food in the grass.Â

Starlings have black feathers with a purply-green sheen, sprinkled in winter with gleaming white flecks that look like stars in the night sky. Â

There are starlings that live in the UK all year round. In autumn, starlings from mainland Europe migrate across the channel to spend the winter in the UK. Together, they form massive flocks made up of thousands of birds.Â

At sunset, huge groups of starlings take to the sky, swooping and swirling into spheres, planes and waves. The phenomenon is called a murmuration, and its named after the noise that is made by the many flapping wings of a group of starlings in flight.Â

A European starling puffing its feathers in the winter sunshine. Male starlings have much stronger colours than female starlings. © Steve Midgley/Shutterstock

When do starlings murmurate?

The majority of starlings in the UK are resident birds, meaning they are here year-round. However, when migratory birds from Europe join the flock, driven across by strong Easterly winds, starling populations are inflated.

As they start to roost, you can witness starling murmurations, and from September to November, you can see an increase in their population. When starling populations are at their peak in December and January, the most spectacular murmuration displays take place. Murmuration lasts until roughly March, or until the temperature begins to rise.

Since this is when they return to their roosting grounds to spend the night, you can usually hear them murmuring as the sun sets, at around dusk. Seeing the starlings take off into the sky by going to a roosting site early in the morning is also worthwhile.

What is a murmuration?

You might be witnessing a murmuration if you’re standing there taking in the skyline and you notice a mysterious cloud of birds flying toward you with a swirling black appearance. A murmuration is a group of 500 starlings, though there may be thousands in them, that are frequently making their way to their roosting location. Smaller flocks return in groups to safer areas from various directions, joining forces to form a massive, heaving flock eventually.

The true spectacle is not the sheer quantity of birds, which is impressive in and of itself, but rather the shapes they create as they swarm and flit around each other in a coordinated whirlwind.

Starlings help each other out when times are hard

Researchers recently observed a fledged European starling help its parents feed the next generation of chicks. This behaviour has been observed in other species of starling, but this is a rare example of cooperative behaviour in the European starling. Researchers think this behaviour might be a reaction to the pressures of climate change.Â

Learn about the flora and fauna that inhabit the United Kingdom.


What types of birds fly in murmurations?

The beautiful sight of them flocking and flying in perfect formation is something you don’t forget in a hurry once you’ve seen it, but arguably, the most interesting fact about murmuration is that starlings are the only species of birds who do it.

Do other birds besides starlings murmurate?

The pedantically correct answer is that “murmuration” is a term of venery referring specifically to a group of starlings. In the 14th and 15th centuries, it was quite fashionable to come up with lists of fanciful terms for groupings of animals of a particular species, and murmuration was one of these terms.

Can you have a murmuration of crows?

Since the definition of “Murmuration” is “a flock of Starlings” then, clearly, no. Crows do not have murmurations. Crows, in a group, are referred to as a “Murder.”

Is there a lead bird in a murmuration?

Murmurations have no leader and follow no plan. A shape-shifting flock of thousands of starlings, called a murmuration, is amazing to see. As many as 750,000 birds join together in flight.