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Is It a Cloud? No, It's a Murmuration!

Plain English


What would you think if you saw this in the sky?

It moves across the sky at speed.

Continuously changing shape.

Spreading out to cover the sky.

While it transmits other-worldly sounds.

These clouds are starling birds flying together.


A starling bird perched on a fence. Its black with white-blueish spots.

This is a starling.


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Flocks of starlings are called a murmuration.

A murmuration is a one of a kind event in nature. If you are not aware of murmurations, you may mistake them for dark clouds.


A murmuration is hundreds or thousands of starlings flying together in amazing coordination. They often look like moving dark clouds. No one knows how exactly they manage to move together in perfect coordination or why they do it. But it simply takes away your breath. It is a joy to watch them.

Starlings fly together in huge numbers just before they go to rest in the evening.


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Watch this video of an amazing murmuration.


Filmmakers Sophie Windsor Clive and Liberty Smith shot this video. They were rowing on the river Shannon in Ireland one afternoon when the starlings started their performance.

“Birds started to fill the sky to the horizon. Then they started to gather, rising and falling. It was as if all of them were singing the same song.”

Sophie and Liberty felt the starlings were governed by “something beyond the usual rules of biology”. The two filmmakers hope their murmuration video will raise awareness about the wilderness and for the creatures within it.



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Starlings live in different regions all over the world.

A murmuration of starlings in western Asia.


There are many different types of starlings.

This is a starling in Tanzania in Africa.


This starling is in Bali in Asia.


A starling in Turkey in Asia.


A starling in India in Asia.


A murmuration of starlings in Scotland in Europe.


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Starlings came to North America because of William Shakespeare.

William Shakespeare lived 450 years ago in England.


Starlings are not native to North America. But today about 200 million starlings can be found there. They were released by some Shakespeare enthusiasts in New York City’s Central Park in the 1890s. They wanted every bird mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays to live on that continent.


A Starling in the USA, North America.


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Starlings can sound just like car alarms

There’s more to starlings than their air shows. They can mimic various sounds including of other birds, animals, even car alarms. Again, no one knows for sure why they like to mimic. It could be to trick animals that might kill them. It may be to find mates. It could also be just for fun.


Some people just don't like starlings.

A starling on a feeding station.


Some garden birdwatchers don’t like starlings. Starlings tend to gobble up everything in a feeding station. Other birds don't get anything much. Starlings do this because they are used to being part of large flocks. So they grab their share quickly.


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In some regions starlings are in danger.

A starling in England in Europe.


The British Royal Society for Protection of Birds (RSPB) says that starling populations have fallen by 80% in the UK. This is mainly because of the use of farm chemicals and a shortage of food and nesting sites.

With these measures you can help the starling population recover:

  • avoid using chemicals in the garden

  • add a pond

  • wildflower meadows

  • compost heaps

  • log piles


Watch this video of a starling feeding its hungry chicks.


Watch this video of a murmuration of starlings.


*Quotes are edited to Plain English*

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