Starlings Sturnus vulgaris, gathering above reed bed at Ham Wall RSPB reserve, winter roost, patterns seen were caused by predator Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus

Starling murmurations

A murmuration of starlings is an amazing sight - a swooping mass of thousands of birds whirling in the sky above.

What are they?

It's basically a mass aerial stunt - thousands of birds all swooping and diving in unison. It's completely breathtaking to witness.

We think that starlings do it for many reasons. Grouping together offers safety in numbers – predators such as peregrine falcons find it hard to target one bird in the middle of a hypnotising flock of thousands.

They also gather to keep warm at night and to exchange information, such as good feeding areas. 

They gather over their roosting site, and perform their wheeling stunts before they roost for the night.

Starlings Sturnus vulgaris, gathering above reed bed at Ham Wall RSPB reserve

Where can you see them?

Autumn roosts usually begin to form in November, though this varies from site to site and some can begin as early as September. 

More and more birds will flock together as the weeks go on, and the number of starlings in a roost can swell to around 100,000 in some places. 

Early evening, just before dusk, is the best time to see them across the UK. You don't need any special equipment as it's all visible by just looking to the skies.

They mainly choose to roost in places which are sheltered from harsh weather and predators, such as woodlands, but reedbeds, cliffs, buildings and industrial structures are also used. During the day however, they form daytime roosts at exposed places such as treetops, where the birds have good all-round visibility.

Several of our reserves make great viewing spots for murmurations. Other popular sites to see starlings include Gretna Green in Dumfries and Galloway, and Brighton Pier, Sussex.

See for yourself

Don't just take our word for it, check out this amazing video of a starling murmuration. Also, the Starlings in the UK website can be useful in seeing where murmurations have been occurring recently. 

Don't be fooled

Despite the incredible size of the flocks, starling numbers are just a fraction of what they used to be. Huge starling flocks used to gather over Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle, Liverpool, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Belfast, but today you have a much better chance of seeing the birds in rural areas.

The starling population has fallen by more than 80 per cent in recent years, meaning they are now on the critical list of UK birds most at risk.

The decline is believed to be due to the loss of permanent pasture, increased use of farm chemicals and a shortage of food and nesting sites in many parts of the UK.

Mumuration of starlings at the reed beds, RSPB Otmoor Nature Reserve, Beckley, Oxfordshire,

Is this your nature wow?

Starlings murmuration

Spotting a starling murmuration could count as part of your family's Wild Challenge nature wow activity.