The Sound of a Starling Murmuration Is as Mesmerizing as the Sight of It

Screen capture. Jan van IJken

This wildly beautiful short film reveals the sound of thousands of starlings as they approach from afar and swarm overhead.

You’ve likely seen footage of the incredible phenomenon known as a starling murmuration. It must be one of nature’s most graceful and mysterious feats of choreography and there have been plenty of videos of the sky filled with perfectly coordinated, undulating waves of birds.

Frankly, I never tire of seeing it – which is what led me to watch a film by Jan van IJken called The Art of Flying on National Geographic’s Short Film Showcase. The film was shot in the Netherlands and shows the birds gathering at dusk as they start their exquisite dance.

While we may know a lot about starlings, how they manage this incredible phenomenon remains a mystery. How do they coordinate this spectacle? How do they move so harmoniously without colliding?

What we do know is that it’s nothing short of breathtaking to watch. And as this film demonstrates; to listen to as well. It’s no accident that the phenomenon is called a murmuration. While the verb “murmur” may have etymological links to discontent and grumbling, over time as a noun it has meant everything from "a hum, muttering, rushing” and “crackling fire” to "softly spoken words.” Upon listening to this film, it all makes perfect sense.

And you can see the full-length video here: The Art of Flying.