Autumn is when starlings and other species of birds fly together in the early evenings and give displays of graceful movement that challenge the greatest choreographers. You can see a video of one of these so-called murmurations by clicking at http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2011/11/starling-flock/
A recent production by the Rambert Dance Company takes these kinds of behaviour by birds and other animals to be the theme for a new production, The Comedy of Change.
Three theories attempt to explain the behaviour when starlings fly together in flocks:
– each bird tries to avoid being at the edge where it is vulnerable from hungry predators
– each bird copies its neighbour and as they become squashed close together small changes in speed and direction become distorted, forming ripples familiar in self-organised chaotic systems
– together, the birds keep warm and find food.
I suspect the Rambert dancers have different motives. On the video Stephen Keynes explains what they might be.