Let us know who you are, what you love and share your stories

Signing up is quick and simple. You will be contributing to the growth of our community before you know it.

Sign Up Now

Starling Birds on Otmoor
Posted by Byron Movement on 2014-01-21 18:36:05.0

Like drivers on a freeway, starlings dont appear to mind having neighbors nearby on their sides—or above and below, for that matter—as long as they have open space ahead. That makes sense, since the presence of a clear path in the direction of travel minimizes the likelihood of collisions should the birds need to shift their course abruptly, as is likely when a falcon attacks. But whats really nifty about this spatial asymmetry is that the researchers have been able to use it to calculate the number of neighbors to which each starling pays close attention—a quantified elaboration of Pottss chorus line idea. By looking at correlations between the movements of neighboring starlings, they can show that each bird always pays attention to the same number of neighbors, whether theyre closer or farther away. How many neighbors is that? Six or seven, says Cavagna, who points out that starlings in flocks can almost always see many more nearby birds— but the number may be closely tied to birds cognitive ability.



The direction of the flock can be coordinated by each birds tracking six or seven other birds. Remarkable. This is a very different kind of cognitive skill.