Starling Flocks Fly like Avalanches?

Jun 16, 2010
Outside Magazine

New research suggests that the flight pattern of a starling flock reaches beyond the usual rules of biology, Wired News reports. Mathematical analysis of starling flocks show that it does not matter how far away one bird is from another, or how large the flock is, the birds always react as if connected to the same network.

This phenomenon is known as scale-free correlation, and the closest known fit to this pattern comes from crystal formation or avalanches--systems which are capable of near instantaneous reformation.  

These amazing flock patterns are most likely evidence of a starling's ability to react to predator attacks. But according to researchers, the "most surprising and exotic feature" of the flocks was their near instantaneous signal processing speed. "How starlings achieve such a strong correlation remains a mystery to us," they wrote.  

Above, check out the mesmerizing video of a starling flock under attack by a Peregrine falcon.

--Shauna Sweeney

Filed To: Science

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