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marinelife's avatar

Are you fascinated, as I am, by birds flocking behavior?

Asked by marinelife (61742points) December 1st, 2012

Recently, (It’s the time of year) I have been amazed when watching birds performing dazzling aerial maneuvers involving changes of direction with impossible precision and not a single crash.

I wondered how it was possible. Turns out that we don’t know yet. This very interesting article discusses the latest theories.

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13 Answers

hearkat's avatar

I do love to watch flocks in flight and schools of fish swimming… it is so mesmerizing. However, I’ve never bothered to look into what science knows about the behavior… so I guess I’m not quite as fascinated as you are.

wundayatta's avatar

Gosh. I thought it was well-known how birds flock. There are certain rules that explain it. Each bird operated independently, but it follows the birds in front of it in a certain relationship. I don’t know. I learned this years ago, and I don’t have any sources, but that article seems particularly ill-informed.

I assure you that if you were used to doing improvisation with other humans in formation, you would not find the behavior of birds to be that complex or impressive. It takes very few rules to start to make amazing choreography happen instantly without a choreographer.

Sunny2's avatar

I find birds, in general, fascinating. The flocking patterns of starlings and others are infinitely mesmerizing. My husband asked me where birds go when it rains and I didn’t know for sure. They’re not flying around. Any answers?

Coloma's avatar

Yes, I’m a major bird lover. I have flocks of bright goldfinch right now and others.
It is amazing to watch large flocks maneuver.
I just tossed out a can of chicken scratch for all the little feathered friends that are slogging through some wild weather over here this weekend.

marinelife's avatar

@wundayatta Tha article is from Audubon magazine and it quotes quite credentialed scientists. You are full of it as usual.

Dsg's avatar

I too find it absolutely beautiful and fascinating! Amazing how they can all be so close and not crash. Your article said they fly as fast as 40 mph, that is amazing. The other day as I was driving on the highway, I saw a bunch of black birds doing just that. They were all flying in a big herd and all went one way like a moving amoeba and then moved the opposite way together. It was beautiful to watch. I love watching nature like that. It’s amazing how many people do not take the time to notice nature at its best!

wundayatta's avatar

@marinelife Sure I’m full of it as long as I don’t bother to research it and show you what is known. But won’t you have egg on your face when someone shows up with research about what I’m talking about. I’m not at all impressed by Audubon magazine. And that article seemed woefully inadquate to me. So you’re going to have to better on your credentialling process. Have fun!

ETpro's avatar

I totally love to watch large flocks of birds maneuver. Calling them bird-brain as a pejorative just shows how conceited the humans doing such labeling are. Perhaps it is they who a wee bit short on mental horsepower.

filmfann's avatar

Watching the waves of birds as they cascade along the winds is a favorite of mine, and a joy I rarely get.

Mariah's avatar

A.) I looooove birds.
B.) There is an obscure little field of study that I love called system dynamics. In this case it would be agent-based modeling. The idea is that each individual in a group can be “programmed” to behave a certain way, yet the group as a whole may exhibit unexpected – they call it emergent – behavior. The feedback loops involved in something like this…I’m getting tingles just thinking about it. I would love to study this phenomenon someday.

ETpro's avatar

@Mariah I’ve been reading about that and it’s mind boggling. It’s thrilling enough to study as a layman. I can’t imagine how enervating it must be to work on the cutting edge of the field.

augustlan's avatar

It amazes me every time I see it in action.

ETpro's avatar

You might enjoy watching some spectacular starling flocking behavior and even more amazing, the birds of Otmoor. There are amazing examples of emergent behavior in the oceans in bait balls and toroidal behavior as well.

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