A Scourge of Starlings ...


… or a ‘murmuration,’ ‘constellation,’ ‘filth,’ ‘vulgarity,’ ‘chattering,’ ‘cloud,’ ‘congregation,’ ‘constellation,’ or ‘clutter’ (I’m not making these up). Whatever you choose to call a flock of starlings, these birds are impressive flockers.

The above video was the scene across the street from our house a few days ago. By starling standards, this was a very modest ‘filth.’ Probably only a thousand or so birds were perched on the trees above our neighbor’s house. The impressive part of it was the deafening noise they made on an otherwise quiet morning.

While starlings may be a scourge to many a birder, they are certainly interesting. Not only are they peculiarly loud, they often swarm together in vast numbers, demonstrating principles of emergent behavior on a grand scale. If you haven’t seen the following videos, you have to watch:


Starlings in North America have an interesting backstory. Here’s the story, sourced from iBird Pro: one hundred of these non-native birds were released in Central Park in 1890 by an industrialist intent on establishing a U.S. home for all birds mentioned in the works of Shakespeare. Now there are 200 million starlings roaming the countryside.

Speaking of. If you enjoy birding and use an iDevice, you owe it to yourself to get iBird Pro. Or Peterson Birds of North America. Or Audubon Birds. I have all three, acquired at different points when they were on sale. They’re all good, each with different strengths. iBird Pro is the most popular and offers a lot of depth, but the UI tends toward the cluttered and confusing; in contrast, Peterson Birds offers a fantastic UI for quickly identifying birds and has outstanding illustrations; Audubon Birds is somewhere in between in terms of UI, but stands out from the pack with a really cool service called eBird, which is an easy way to ‘log’ bird sightings and to see what species have been spotted by citizen birders near your present location. I hesitate to name one of these apps as the ‘best.’ If you enjoy birding, my advice is to wait for app sales and get all of them (I picked up two of these apps for .99 cents).

Troy Kitch @troykitch