When seen from the ground, it appears as if these “waves of torso” originate because the starlings fly close to each other. But these “waves” appear to occur because the birds swing slightly upward, while hanging slightly, so that more of their wings can be seen by observers on the ground. In this case, they not only watch the seven birds around them, but imitate the birds in front of them as well. “Our latest models show that they copy the behavior of the closest mate, causing the entire crowd to sweep,” Hemilrick explains. (Find out why birds are important and deserve protection.)
Hemelrijk has also found evidence that these cartridges are intended to confuse birds of prey such as hawks and make it difficult for them to pick out birds isolated from the flock. Using advanced computer models, Hemelrijk discovered mass escape patterns related to the movements of birds of prey.
Why do starlings circle around such huge flocks for so long is a more difficult question.
The most common explanation is that clouds provide protection against raptors. But Heppner and Cavagna argue that this does not make sense. According to them, birds can simply return to their lair in trees, instead of flying in such large formations.
“You might think they want to fly for the shortest time possible,” says Hebner. “Instead, they put on an amazing air show, from half an hour to 45 minutes, which consumes a lot of energy.”
Meanwhile, they are actually mainly attractive to birds of prey. It’s as if they were shouting, “Yohu, here we go.” You are wondering how such a mechanism arose.
Another possible explanation, sometimes referred to as the “warmer together” theory, states that starlings convey good habitats for their species through swarms. As a result, more birds will go there, which will save the body heat of the animals.
Researchers from the University of Gloucester and the Royal Society of Biology provided an overview of data on more than 3,000 starling clouds collected in 2014 and 2015 by volunteers from 23 countries. The results, published in 2017, showed no correlation between temperature and swarm size, calling into question the heat hypothesis.
The study also found that less than a third of starling clouds have a hawk, hawk, or other bird of prey, which provides some support for the theory of protection from predators. But this does not explain why the starling shows have lasted for so long.
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Scientists agree on one characteristic of starlings: birds are remarkably intelligent. When Heppner kept starlings in cages to study, he said the animals “were so good at opening doors that we had to put locks on them.”
When you think of them as intelligent animals, could starling clouds be a conscious expression of the sheer joy of movement? (Read more about animals that “dance”).
“When there are no birds of prey, I think you can actually see these kinds of shows as a kind of dance,” says Hemilrejk.
We don’t want to attribute too much to him, but the birds are definitely super passionate. Sometimes they do this for a long time, while they can just go to sleep.
This article was originally published in English on NationalGeographic.com
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