European Starlings in Flight

As the sun went down, completely hidden behind the clouds, a faint glow of red and orange spread up across the western sky. Northern Cardinals peeped in the old field along the highway, already gathering darkness, Eastern Towhees called, a White-throated Sparrow raised a plaintive whistled song. Small groups of European Starlings had begun to gather in bare-limbed chinaberry trees in the field, and more were flying in. They arrived in small, dark, silhouetted flocks that settled briefly in a tree, then immediately flew up again and into another tree. Each new small group that arrived sent up another wave of Starlings to coalesce in sinuous, shape-shifting images that flowed, moving smoothly together as one, then shattering into pieces and dropping into the trees. Their graceful flight, in constant, fluid motion, was mesmerizing to watch, perhaps the nicest thing about Starlings.

This fall season I’ve seen more European Starlings in our neighborhood than ever before, and while that doesn’t seem a particularly good thing, and in general Starlings are noisy, aggressive and not very appealing birds – when they fly together like this, they become something beautiful.

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