We’ve all seen this – even if you live in a city. A flock of starlings consisting of maybe a few hundred or more individual birds turns on a dime all at once. It’s startling. It’s wonderful. How do they do that?
A murmuration – that’s the term for a large flock of starlings – rolls “like a drunken fingerprint across the sky,” as the poet Richard Wilbur wrote, “smudging the dusk horizon with the quickness of a pulsating jellyfish.”
The ancient Romans believed that the gods hinted at their intentions in the way birds flew. Scientists of the last century groped for such mysterious concepts as “natural telepathy” or a “group soul.”