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Starling Murmuration Survey

Ever wondered why starlings murmurate? Can understanding this help stop their decline?

The Starling Survey 2014-16 has now closed. Thank you for taking part. Your sighting data is currently being analysed to find out more about murmurations!

Starlings often form large groups and undertake spectacular aerial displays known as murmurations. Little is known about why this occurs. Our starling survey aims to address the murmuration mystery using potentially a very large dataset, provided by people across the UK.

In the 2014-15 season over 1,600 sightings revealed some interesting results about location and duration of murmurations. The next season we called on the public to send in more specific information.

A zoomable 2015-16 murmuration map shows the location of over 1,000 murmuration records sent in by the public.

Researcher Dr Anne Goodenough MRSB explained the survey and current theories on BBC News.

It has been suggested that starling murmurations occur because starlings gain safety in numbers, confusing potential predators such as birds of prey before settling down to roost. Another theory is that they could be gathering to keep warm or exchange information. However, despite starling murmurations being an incredible spectacle, the biology of murmurations remains little studied.

This study harnesses people power to increase knowledge about this amazing phenomenon.

Starling numbers have declined alarmingly over the last few years. And since the mid-1970s the UK population has fallen by 66%. The starling is now red listed as a bird of high conservation concern. The cause of the starling decline in the UK is unknown.

Our research partner, Dr Anne Goodenough MRSB from the University of Gloucestershire, and her team are analysing the data to find out how location, weather, sunset time, and season affect the size, frequency and time of murmurations.

The survey is now closed, but people can still share photographs and information using #StarlingSurvey and dedicated Twitter account @Starling_Survey.

The starling murmuration survey is a collaboration between the Royal Society of Biology and The University of Gloucestershire. It follows the success of the flying ant survey, for which thousands of records over three years have revealed a more complex pattern of flying ant emergences than expected. You can also download our house spider identification app: Spider in da House, and take part in our new seasonal allergy citizen science project via our #BritainBreathing app.

Interesting starling facts and images on Facebook