NEWS

Group foraging in little penguins ScienceDaily ( PLoS ONE paper) Selected by R Jovani
Mixed Genes Mix Up the Migrations of Hybrid Birds ScienceNewsline (Ecology Letters paper) Selected by JL Alcantara
Dinosaurs 'shrank' regularly to become birds BBC (Science paper) Selected by JL Alcantara
Parrot Who Was Among Last of Its Kind, Said to Have Inspired ‘Rio,’ Dies National Geographic Society Selected by JL Alcantara
Researchers declassify dinosaurs as being the great-great-grandparents of birds Phys.org (Journal of Ornithology paper) Selected by JL Alcantara
Pristine fossil confirms Archaeopteryx as original bird United Press International (Nature paper) Selected by JL Alcantara
All gone: How erasing billions of birds shocked us Yahoo! News (PNAS paper) Selected by JL Alcantara
Plants hitch a lift on migrating birds BBC Nature (PeerJ paper) Selected by JL Alcantara
Mapping the evolution of a ring species Univ. British Columbbia (Nature paper) Selected by R Jovani
Closest Living Relative of Ancient Elephant Bird Is Tiny LiveScience (Science paper) Selected by JL Alcantara
Identifying evolutionary distinct birds WIRED (Current Biology paper) Selected by R Jovani
Ten Thousand Birds: Ornithology since Darwin Myriad Birds Selected by JL Alcantara
The 100 most distinct and rare birds BBC Nature (Current Biology paper) Selected by JL Alcantara
Hummingbird Evolution Soared After They Invaded South America 22 Million Years Ago ScienceNewsline (Current Biology paper) Selected by JL Alcantara
Bird’s Extinction Is Tied to the Arrival of Humans The New York Times (PNAS paper) Selected by JL Alcantara
A bird-like dinosaur called “Chicken from Hell” NPR news (PLOS One paper) Selected by JL Alcantara
Wintering irruptions of Snowy owls in North America and Europe (in Spanish) SEO/BirdLife blog Selected by R Jovani
Punk Amazon pheasant is a European emigrant NewScientists (Naturwissenschaften paper) Selected by JL Alcantara
Flights of Fancy in Avian Evolution American Scientist Selected by JL Alcantara Why do birds fly in a V? Endangered ibis reveals its amazing secret (VIDEO) Los Angeles Times (Nature letter) Selected by J Broggi
Sharp-toothed tigerfish jumps to eat a bird (VIDEO) (J Fish Biol paper) Nature News Selected by J Broggi
On the evolution of bird fingers. PHYS.ORG (J Exp Zool paper) Selected by R Jovani
Albatross colony shows benefits of same-sex pairing ABC Science (J Proceedings of the Royal Society B paper) Selected by JL Alcantara Swifts stay airborne for six months at a time New scientist(Nature communications paper) Selected by J Broggi
100 years ago bird lovers were encouraged to use the field glasses rather than the gun The Guardian Selected by R Jovani
Trees send distress signals that birds use to find insects Sinc(Ecol Lett paper) Selected by R Jovani
I’m singing in the rainforest Max-Planck-Gesellschaft (journal of interdisciplinary music studies paper) Selected by JL Alcantara
Fossil Poo Reveals Where Ancient Giant Bird Ate Discovery News (PNAS paper) Selected by JL Alcantara
Colonizing songbirds lost sense of syntax e! Science News (Current Biology paper) Selected by JL Alcantara
Songbirds may have 'borrowed' DNA to fuel migration Phys.org (Evolution paper) Selected by JL Alcantara
Collision Course ScienceNews (ScienceNews paper) Selected by JL Alcantara
Social learning of migratory performance PhysOrg (Science paper) Selected by R Jovani
Evolution of parasitic egg colouration: parasites also select. Not Exactly Rocket Science blog(Biol Lett paper) Selected by R Jovani
European birds adjust their flight initiation distance to road speed limits BBC News(Biol Lett paper) Selected by R Jovani
The secret of male beauty (in turkeys) UCL News (PLOS Genetics paper) Selected by JL Alcantara
Bird hunters 'emptying Afghan skies' BBC News Asia Selected by JL Alcantara
Secrets of the world’s toughest little bird Griffith U. News (Nature Communications paper) Selected by JL Alcantara Outdoor Cats: Single Greatest Source of Human-Caused Mortality for Birds and Mammals American Bird Conservancy (Nature communications paper) Selected by J Broggi
Hiding in plain sight: New species of bird discovered in capital city e! Science News (Forktail paper) Selected by JL Alcantara
Foraging space partitioning without territoriality in a seabird ScienceDaily (Science paper) Selected by R Jovani
Bird extinction leads to rapid evolution of seed size The Red Notebook (Science paper) Selected by R Jovani
Bird song changes in translocated birds ScienceDaily (J Appl Ecol paper) Selected by R Jovani
Why penguins lost their wings ABC Science (PNAS paper) Selected by JL Alcantara
Simulated patternity uncertainty: Males care about intruders but feed nestlings regardless of patternity uncertainty ScienceDaily (PLoS ONE paper) Selected by R Jovani
Seabird Bones Reveal Changes in Open-Ocean Food Chain Science Daily(PNAS paper) Selected by F Mateos-Gonzalez
New fossil brings new light on the evolution of hummingbirds and swifts Science NOW(Proc R Soc B paper) Selected by R Jovani
Testosterone vs. audience on the regulation of bird fights and social status ScienceDaily (Hormones and Behavior paper) Selected by R Jovani
Lead bullet fragments poison rare US condors BBC News Selected by JL Alcantara
Avoiding cuckoo parasitism by breeding indoors Live Science(Beh Ecol Sociobiol paper) Selected by R Jovani
Why I study duck genitalia... or... why basic science matters Slate Selected by R Jovani
A study about play in cranes BBC Nature(Ibis paper) Selected by R Jovani
Pretty great tits make better mothers Discover (Frontiers in Zoology paper) Selected by JL Alcantara
Humans wiped out Pacific island birds ABC Science (PNAS paper) Selected by JL Alcantara
The Rise and Fall of Four-Winged Birds Not Exactly Rocket Science (Science paper) Selected by R Jovani
Sex role reversal: Female shorebirds rule the roost BBC News (Nature Communications paper) Selected by JL Alcantara
Birds communicate their size through song ScienceDaily(PLoS ONE paper) Selected by R Jovani
How Birds of Different Feathers Flock Together ScienceDaily (Animal Behaviour paper) Selected by JL Alcantara
The Owl Comes Into Its Own The New York Times-Science Selected by JL Alcantara
On the evolution of UV vision in birds ScienceDaily(BMC Evol Biol paper) Selected by R Jovani
A great tit predating upon a common redpoll (video; Finnish) Ilta Sanomat Selected by R Jovani
Killing Barred Owls To Save the Spotted Owl CNN Selected by JL Alcantara
New dinosaur fossil challenges bird evolution theory e! Science News (Nature paper) Selected by JL Alcantara
Fractal geometry of a plumage pattern changes with physical condition in partridges ScienceNow(Proc R Soc B paper) Selected by I Galván
As Andean condors decline, tradition draws critics Reuters Selected by JL Alcantara





see Older News on the left-hand column

Sunday, 21 June 2009

The magic of a dancing flock of starlings

A dancing flock of starlings hypnotize us like the fire. The flock fly as a single bird; contracting and expanding, going up and then down into the trees of the avenue. The flock is clearly more than the messy sum of some hundreds of birds: it is a self-organized dynamic system showing emergent properties that escape to our comprehension.

This is why science exists, to explain the magic trick, and enjoy nature with renewed eyes. We know from a long time ago that in a flock of starlings there isn’t a single leader governing the dance: a flock is a decentralized system where the cohesion and movement of the group is created by the massive interaction among birds.

Italian researchers have gone a step further in this explanation by taking many pictures from starling flocks flying over the city of Rome. Then, they reconstructed on the computer the 3D position of each individual inside the flock, and studied how the flight of a given bird was shaped by its neighbors. They discovered that birds aren’t affected by the position of all neighbors within a certain distance (lineal distance), but only by those six closest neighbors (topographic distance). Implementing this rule as an algorithm into a simulation model, they showed that this individual behavior enhanced the compactness of flocks when attacked by a predator. In this way, starlings evade the attack of the falcon, leaving him hypnotized by their self-organized magic.


Photo by "He and Fi" (Flickr; Creative Commons)


This post was previously published in Catalan and Spanish in this blog (see here)


Ballerini, M., Cabibbo, N., Candelier, R., Cavagna, A., Cisbani, E., Giardina, I., Lecomte, V., Orlandi, A., Parisi, G., Procaccini, A., Viale, M., & Zdravkovic, V. (2008). From the Cover: Interaction ruling animal collective behavior depends on topological rather than metric distance: Evidence from a field study Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 105 (4), 1232-1237 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0711437105

7 comments:

  1. Seeing a flock of starlings perform this dance is wonderous and mesmerizing. I saw a flock do this when I was visiting Rome a couple of years ago. The sun was low in the sky illuminating a bank of clouds that acted as a backdrop. The beauty rivaled anything that I saw in the Vatican Musuem.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I think I can intuit this, but can you explain the difference between lineal and topographical distances? And do the six birds that are "closest" change, as the flock changes, so that it is always the six closest individuals, who ever they may be?

    ReplyDelete
  3. Dear DeLene,
    Lineal distance is the normal euclidean distance (e.g. 20cm or 1 meter that you can measure with a ruler). As I understand it (by sure someone else can explain it better) the topographical distance can be defined in different ways. For instance, it could be defined as the difference in altitude between two points (if the two points are in a same flat surface the topographic distance is 0, although the lineal distance can be e.g. 10Km). In this paper, the authors define the topographic distance as "how many intermediate individuals separate two birds".
    If I understand well the second question... yes, a flock of starlings is very dynamic, and the neighbors of one bird change rapidly. The interesting thing is that individual behavior remains the same (e.g. trying not to collide with the closest neighbors) although the identity of neighbors changes continuously.
    Roger

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thank you, that does make sense. It sounds an awful lot like cycling in a racing peloton, but with the addition of altitude between the racers.

    ReplyDelete
  5. They are fantastic birds, I live in Bretagne, France and we ( my wife & I) were sitting on our terrace one day when ( there must have been 10'000 Starlings) came in front of us and swirled & swooped for about five minutes

    ReplyDelete
  6. We watched this today in marbury woods near northwich it went on for 30 mins was amazing! A sparrow hawk was close by too!

    ReplyDelete
  7. seen them today in chester wow wow wow must have been thousends of them they were there for 220 min then all landed in less than 5 min

    ReplyDelete

 
Ir Arriba