Sunday 15 September 2019

Stunning starling murmuration filmed in Scotland

The birds gather to escape predators, exchange information and keep warm in flocks of up to 100,000.

By Edd Dracott, Press Association

A spectacular starling murmuration has been pictured flying over the small town of Gretna in Scotland.

The remarkable sight sees tens of thousands of birds swooping and diving in unison, forming a rolling cascade of movement in the evening sky.

According to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) the vast flying formations offer the birds safety in numbers, protecting them from predators such as peregrine falcons.

Starlings fly to Britain in winter to escape the relative cold of the European mainland and gather in flocks of up to the hundreds of thousands in the sky.

They are most commonly spotted just before dusk in November.

The flocking, known as a murmuration, also allows the birds to exchange information such as good areas to feed and to stay warm in the night air before they settle down in their roosting site below.

Also known as the common starling or European starling, the birds tend to roost in sheltered areas such as woodlands but they are also known to use reedbeds, cliffs and even man-made buildings and industrial structures.

The RSPB warns that despite the vast appearance of flocks, starling numbers have actually dwindled by 80% in recent years and are now on the critical list of UK birds most at risk.

The charity says murmurations used to be visible above Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle, Liverpool, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Belfast, but today they are largely spotted in rural areas.

The fall in population is due to a loss of permanent pasture, increased use of chemicals for farming and a shortage of food and nesting sites.

PA Media

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