Video: Starling Murmuration Captured on Film in France

Candice Gaukel Andrews April 4, 2013 12

Chunky and blackbird-sized, breeding European starlings are dark overall with purplish-green iridescent feathers and yellow bills.

A lot of times when working with nature, what you manage to get on film is a happy accident. So it was for Neels Castillon, just a few months ago. While he and his film crew were waiting to shoot an outdoor commercial in Marseille, France, just before sunset, they happened to witness a massive flock of birds performing a “ballet.” Luckily, they began to roll tape. Said Castillon on Vimeo, where he first posted his video, “we just forgot our job and started this little piece of poetry.”

The European starlings in Castillon’s footage, which you can see below, are engaging in a phenomenon called a murmuration. This collective behavior is typically seen at dusk throughout Europe, between November and February. Each evening during those months, the birds execute breathtaking aerial maneuvers before choosing a place to roost for the night.

No one knows why starlings fly in this way. What is known is that a murmuration requires strong spatial coherence and synchronization. An article about the behavior in Wired Magazine stated, “Each starling in a flock is connected to every other. When a flock turns in unison, it’s a phase transition. At the individual level, the rules guiding this are relatively simple. When a neighbor moves, so do you. Depending on the flock’s size and speed and its members’ flight physiologies, the large-scale pattern changes. What’s complicated, or at least unknown, is how criticallity is created and maintained.”

Scientists around the globe are currently using computer simulations and physical data to try to demystify murmurations. For now, however, just enjoy the performance of this bird ballet that—in words from Wired Magazine—“hints at universal principles yet to be understood.”

Here’s to finding your true places and natural habitats,




  1. Vanessa Allen April 10, 2013 at 6:30 am - Reply

    This is so beautiful! Thanks for posting. I used to love watching the starlings at dusk over the Coliseum, Termini station and the Gasworks (beautiful ones near Piramide)in Rome.

  2. Dan Harvey April 9, 2013 at 6:16 pm - Reply

    Amazing, great sound track. Life really is good.

  3. Candice Gaukel Andrews April 8, 2013 at 3:39 pm - Reply


    Yes, it is. See:

    Thanks for your question.

    — C.G.A.

  4. Scott April 8, 2013 at 3:37 pm - Reply

    Great video. Is this the same as the introduced species we have in the USA?

  5. Judy Hoy April 7, 2013 at 8:33 am - Reply

    Besides being able to do great ballet, Starlings can carry on intelligent, meaningful conversations in English or whatever language they learn from a person. They are incredibly intelligent and very talented birds, and they eat insects that eat our crops.

    Great video, thank you for sharing.

  6. Thomas Sheehan April 7, 2013 at 8:32 am - Reply

    Thanks for that..

  7. Geetanjali Dhar April 6, 2013 at 5:39 am - Reply

    Truly incredible..!

  8. Bob Gettman April 5, 2013 at 7:44 am - Reply

    WOW !!! Wildly wonderful !!

  9. David H. Davis April 5, 2013 at 7:42 am - Reply

    Collective animal behavior – schools of fish, flocks of birds, swarms of honeybees, and trails made of ants – is inherently fascinating. David Sumpter’s “Collective Animal Behavior” synthesizes much of the relevant biology and physics. Physics?

    Many scientists believe murmurations are similar to other systems, such as crystals forming, avalanches, metals becoming magnetized and liquids turning to gases. These systems are “on the edge,” which means they’re ready to be completely transformed in an instant.

  10. Emily Juneau, B.Sc. April 5, 2013 at 7:41 am - Reply

    Wow! It’s beautiful!!!

  11. Thomas A. Tabor April 4, 2013 at 12:43 pm - Reply

    Incredible! Thanks for sharing, and great soundtrack with the video!

  12. Marg April 4, 2013 at 9:44 am - Reply

    It looks like such a joyous activity that it makes you hope that the birds are expressing joy or wonderment or just having a hell of a good time performing a ballet!

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