People afraid of birds, especially horror flick mass quantities of them, beware.
A flock of birds caught someone's attention in the Netherlands and had them filming a tree. The flock flew left, then flew right, and then, at 19 seconds into the footage comes the surprise.
Focus on the tree in this video to see something that will have you going "wow."
While you might have thought you were seeing leafy boughs of a tree, it quickly transformed into a leafless giant when its branches were relieved of thousands of birds taking flight at the same time.
"Wow. Weee!" the person filming the scene said with a chuckle. "Fantastic!"
"Short film but a sweet film," he added.
What's going on here?
Based on their habits, the birds appear to be starlings. The coordinated swarms of this type of bird are known as murmurations. Wired detailed some of the science behind such murmurations in an article a couple of years ago:
Starling flocks, it turns out, are best described with equations of “critical transitions” — systems that are poised to tip, to be almost instantly and completely transformed, like metals becoming magnetized or liquid turning to gas. Each starling in a flock is connected to every other. When a flock turns in unison, it’s a phase transition.
It’s easy for a starling to turn when its neighbor turns — but what physiological mechanisms allow it to happen almost simultaneously in two birds separated by hundreds of feet and hundreds of other birds? That remains to be discovered, and the implications extend beyond birds. Starlings may simply be the most visible and beautiful example of a biological criticality that also seems to operate in proteins and neurons, hinting at universal principles yet to be understood.
Here are some other videos showing starling swarms.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife explained that starling roosts can reach up to 150,000 birds. At sunrise, the starlings leave the roost then return at sunset.
This story has been updated to correct a typo.