General Question

Harpyja's avatar

Why do birds fly in strange, orbiting circles?

Asked by Harpyja (19 points ) December 12th, 2008

While driving to the bust stop this morning, my mother and I saw an interesting phenomenon – birds, which appeared to be grackles, were circling around in the air in a strange pattern. They didn’t appear to be going after anything in particular, such as food. They simply formed a tightly packed, sphere-shaped flock and circled over the road ahead of us.

I have seen them do this before when chasing away an osprey, and at other times for no known reason at all. I live in Southern Florida. Does anyone know why they behave like this?

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9 Answers

kfingerman's avatar

some birds (of prey and vultures) circle like that in an updraft to gain altitude without much energy expended so they can then continue soaring around watching for food.

Harp's avatar

Here is a study of the shapes that flocks of starlings assume under different conditions. It finds that compact, spherical flocks occur in the presence of a heavy threat from predators. It’s possible that they were aware of a bird of prey that you didn’t notice.

AlfredaPrufrock's avatar

Looking for the perfect head for target practice, perhaps?

skfinkel's avatar

Ever notice how birds flying like this resemble schools of fish, swimming in tight formation?

AlfredaPrufrock's avatar

I always wonder about birds all facing the same direction on the telephone wires…

Jeruba's avatar

I’ve noticed birds doing this when it did not appear to be a question of predators and prey. For instance, I used to walk home past a church with a large steeple, and from time to time, as if at a signal, all the sparrows would launch off their perches around the steeple at the same moment and circle it two or three times in a tight cluster and then settle right back down again. I’ve seen little flocks rise up, too, just like a sudden eddy of leaves in the fall, a tiny whirlwind, and spin a few times and then alight. I’ve always wondered what that was about.

Birds on wires—those are great to watch. When there’s a group of power lines in tiers across the road, you can watch one bird suddenly decide to move, and flutter to another perch, and then everybody shoves over to make room, and one or two of those drop off and flit to a different perch, and everybody there moves over, just like playing pieces in some avian game. They keep that up, with lots of little shuffles and flutters, until everybody is happy and they all settle down again. Until one guy decides to move.

I always wonder what prompts that first move—did somebody make a rude remark or something? did some alpha bird just decide to assert his place in the pecking order?—and what kind of politics are playing out in the rest of it.

And yes, they all do face the same way.

nicky1272000's avatar

birds fly in circles becaus one of their “bird friend” died i think thats why they fly in a circle for so many hours

robertbburns's avatar

I have birds fly in patterns for me but only during specific times and those patterns and feelings allow me to become aware of a suicide, earthquake or other terrible situation, it is usually the beginning to finding the answer to whats coming.. there is more depth to all this but that’s the basics to the answer… It takes focus, dedication and a willingness to see the situation through..

aerin_712's avatar

I have experiences like that they flew in same place and they resting in same place too my mommy said that the bird is trying to tell something us it maybe a sign, warning, etc.

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