Video: When Hundreds of Rosy Starlings Come Together, Something Magical Happens

This winter, catch a dance performance of the evocative bird ballet. | By NGT Staff  
Scientists believe that gatherings of rosy starling, called a murmuration, might be linked to the proximity of a predator. Photo: iStock.com/mikedabell
Scientists believe that gatherings of rosy starling, called a murmuration, might be linked to the proximity of a predator. Photo: iStock.com/mikedabell

Rosy starlings are social creatures. Shrill and fond of congregating in large numbers, they are even comfortable roosting with birds of other feathers like mynahs. While their nesting behaviour is rare, it’s when they take to the skies that their communal harmony really takes centre stage.

At dawn and dusk, tens of thousands of these small birds form a moving dark cloud, swooping down and soaring together in perfect orchestration. Their aerial acrobatics can be witnessed right here in India. Every year, millions of migratory rosy starlings fly in from east Europe and central Asia to Kutch in Gujarat, parts of Rajasthan, and the forests near Masinagudi in Tamil Nadu, among other places. The beautiful video below by Raman Kulkarni and Harish Kulkarni, was taken approximately 50km from Solapur, Maharashtra. Best viewed when your video is set to HD quality.

Each rosy starling moves in sync with its neighbour, but the mechanics of it are dizzying when you consider that these are thousands of birds flying as a collective whole, at speeds of up to 55mph. Scientists believe that their unpredictable aerial formations are the meant to foil attacks from predators.

They’re the first migratory birds to arrive in India, making an appearance in August, and the last to leave, around April. Their fondness for plundering fields of jowar has earned them the nickname “jowari”, notes Edward Hamilton Aiken’s The Common Birds of Bombay, but they also lend farmers a helping hand by snacking on insects like grasshoppers and locusts.

Where to See: Rosy starlings can be seen in a variety of habitats from wetlands to wooded areas, in states including Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. Naturalist Shardul Bajikar said that while Mumbaikars can spot flocks in Sanjay Gandhi National Park and even far-flung suburbs like Vasai and Dahisar, travellers to Gujarat can witness a full-fledged murmurration. He recommended Kutch and Jamnagar in particular. “Jamnagar has amazing views of huge congregations flying in the city,” Bajikar said. The birds arrive between August and early December, and can be spotted until April.

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