Is there a word in the English language lovelier than murmuration? It’s one of nature's most phenomenal sights: the incredibly beautiful group behavior of thousands of starlings swishing and swooping together like one living, breathing entity. Why do starlings gather in these odd flash mobs?
The mesmerizing act is typically seen at the beginning of winter, right before dusk, as the birds look for a place to roost for the night. It’s actually a survival function. Numbers build up slowly near the roost, and by late afternoon there is a huge swirling, living cloud. Essentially, it's an epic battle to determine who in the flock survives, and who's a target for predators. It’s all about safety in numbers — none want to be on the outside and none want to be first to land. Each bird tries to copy the bird next to it exactly, which results in a stunning rippling effect with uncanny coordination that biologists don’t yet understand.
Survival can be a gloriously beautiful thing. And starlings may be the most visible example of the beauty that can happen when we work together.