Super starlings: P.E.I.'s 'ballet of the skies' part of world phenomenon
From Rome to Denmark, starlings are aerial superstars
Thousands of European starlings live under the Hillsborough Bridge and put on an aerial show at dusk, starting in fall and continuing into the winter. The birds use the bridge as a warm place to roost.
They arrive at dusk in small groups of up to 100 from different areas areas around Charlottetown. The birds continue to circle above the bridge as the numbers build to the thousands.
Each new group adds to an impressive air ballet where the entire flock moves as one. The movement is called a murmuration.
Up to 10,000 starlings have been counted under the bridge during the annual Christmas bird count.
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Here are some interesting nuggets to know about starlings around the world:
1. Denmark's 'Black Sun' of starlings
One million starlings form a giant murmuration that actually blocks the sky, hence the name Black Sun.
It's considered the biggest nature event in Denmark every year.
2. The number 7
Princeton University researchers have revealed a key piece of math behind the murmuration of starlings.
The American scientists, working with a team of Italian physicists, found that seven is the magic number for the birds.
The Italian team recorded videos of starlings with multiple cameras on top of a train station in Rome.
They used isolated shots from the videos to track the position and speed of each bird.
It revealed the starling responds not to the entire flock, but to the seven closest birds.
They co-ordinate with their seven nearest neighbours to save energy, but stay in formation.
3. Flying with the starlings
Paragliding world champion Horacio Llorens lived out a lifelong dream on Oct. 17 when he flew among the birds.
He got special permission from the Danish government to be part of the Black Sun phenomenon in southern Denmark.
A Danish ornithologist was on hand to ensure the safety and well-being of the starlings.
Llorens used an electric-powered paraglider to fly with the flock.
"The feeling of flying with this flock of birds was different from anything I did in my life," he told the Reuters news service. "I felt I was part of the flock."
4. It's not just starlings! Budgies do it, too
The definition of murmuration is a flock of starlings.
But reporters used the word to describe a series of dramatic photos taken Oct. 6, 2017, in Australia.
Wildlife enthusiast Steven Pearce took the once-in-a-lifetime photographs of more than 10,000 budgerigars at a water hole in Alice Springs, Australia.
The event only lasted 10 minutes before the birds split up again.
Flocks of budgies are usually between three and 100 birds, making this a very rare occurance.
5. Winter visitors to Israel
Murmurations are also well-known in Israel, where starlings from Russia and east Europe spend the winter.
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