Beautiful natural phonomenon above Dutch city: millions of sparrows flying in formation.

I’ve seen it myself when I lived in Utrecht, the third largest city in the Netherlands. Every night at about dinnertime, millions of sparrows would come from the city and around it, and fly in dense dark clouds for about half an hour before settling down for the night again.
This swarm is the biggest in the Netherlands, and someone made this clip of it. Do any US cities know this phenomenon as well?

Answered my own question; here is a similar swarm above Sacramento.

I can’t remember seeing any bird flocks quite that dramatic. I assume the clip is being run in “fast motion.”

The formation at the 1:00 minute mark --which looks like a giant bird-- is very striking

The emergence of 1.5 million bats from under the Congress Ave. Bridge in Austin, Texas each summer night is an impressive sight.

In some videos of the bats, you can see a similar sort of flocking behavior as the swallows from the OP.

Those aren’t sparrows, they’re european starlings. Could we get Colibri in here please?

Are you sure they aren’t African swallows?

You mean because of the coconuts?

No, That is the real speed. I remember that from seeing it myself, live. Usually when I came home from work and saw them above the train station.

And yes, those are (european) starlings, not sparrows, my bad. When seen hopping about on lawns, they look like this. A shiny, speckly black. The Dutch name for them is “Spreeuwen”

Definitely starlings, nice clip though :slight_smile:

Dammit, I recently learned the name for this bird behaviour, but my note of it was lost when my PC suffered a major crash! :frowning:

I think it’s a word beginning with “m”. Does anyone know what it is…?

Captain Starling notices the position of the sun, he sounds the alarm.

Millions of starlings take to the sky and in unison cry out: “Form of VOLTRON!”


That is awesome and beautiful.

:: forwards OP’s link ::

Parts of that are just insane. The music went with it perfectly. It was beautiful and moving, thank you for posting it.

A. Gwilliam - I tried google, but the only thing I saw that started with an m was on a Youtube comment - “morphogenetic fields”. Does that sound right?

My memory just kicked in! This behaviour is called “murmuration”.

Flocking (and schooling) behavior is an amazing natural example of how very complex behavior can come out of some very simple rules. Flocking behavior fascinated me as an undergrad. I started to work on developing computer algorithms to mimic it, only to find out (thankfully before I had wasted too much time on it) that I was only about 10 years late to the party.

in the 1980’s, Craig Reynolds developed a very simple algorithm, called “Boids” (for bird-like objects) that simulated this behavior very nicely.

In short, that complex flocking behavior can be explained by 3 simple rules:

  1. Boids attempt to fly towards the center of mass of neighboring boids.
  2. Boids try to avoid hitting other boids by keeping a small distance between them.
  3. Boids attempt to match velocity with boids that are near them.

I’m still fascinated by this, over a decade later. Cool stuff!

Huh. A. Gwilliam, I though you might have been thinking of emergence, which flocking is a kind of. Apparently not, though. :stuck_out_tongue:

The music is by Andrew Bird - Yawny at the Apocalypse.