Aerobatic ballet

Around this time of year, on my daily drive home from work, I am sometimes lucky enough to see one of Britain's natural wonders: flocks of starlings wheeling in the sky above Chat Moss between Liverpool and Manchester. There are sometimes a couple of hundred of them. The displays can be pretty spectacular, but nowhere near as spectacular as in this remarkable video of starlings above Otmoor in Oxfordshire, filmed by Dylan Winter:

As Richard Dawkins explains in his latest book, The Greatest Show on Earth, the starlings' remarkable aerobatic ballet results from each bird within the flock following a relatively simple set of rules. The birds' wonderfully complex flight patterns emerge from the cumulative, simple actions of the individual birds, in a similar way to water's wetness and turbulence emerging from the relatively simple interactions of individual water particles.

In my opinion, the fact that such complex behaviour can emerge from simple sets of rules does nothing to detract from the displays; indeed, if anything, I would say that it adds to the Wow! Factor.

Richard Carter, FCD

Writer and photographer Richard Carter, FCD is the founder of the Friends of Charles Darwin. He lives in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire.WebsiteFacebookTwitterNewsletterBooks

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