Chorus Line Hypothesis

In my mind murmuration is one of nature’s greatest pageants. Undulating spasms of reckless harmony never fails to take my breath away. Erupting effortlessly, exuding exquisite order and purpose, a murmuration of Starlings begs consideration.

Beyond recognition of defensive advantages, the mechanics of murmuration remained elusive until 1984. That year zoologist Wayne Potts published his murmuration hypothesis in the journal Nature. Using high speed film and frame by frame analysis, Potts detailed the “Chorus Line” effect.

He said -“birds are like dancers who see an approaching leg kick when it’s still down the line, and anticipate what to do.”

Birds don’t respond to immediate neighbors, instead they anticipate and react to movement down the line Flying into, rather than away from the flock kick starts the kerfuffle. After that, split second reflex accounts for dizzying speed and flash mob contortions.


I’ve have Starlings on my mind. It began a few days ago when I chanced upon a poem at – “When Starlings Fall” transported me to childhood dusks – those precious moments between day and the darkness responsible for “bedtime”. Longing for thunder cloud lullabies, straining to catch the slightest breeze – trading last breaths of evening for resignation of summer bedroom hell. This is when they came; thousands of Starlings able to dance in unison – not a puff of wind as thousands of flapping wings defied possibility.

Yesterday, out of nowhere a friend mentioned this video. I hadn’t pondered, let alone thought about Starlings in decades. Not one to mess with the cosmos – take a moment to watch and wonder.