How many Starlings does it take…

watercolour by Eoin Mac Lochlainn of murmuration of starlings in Dublin

I looked out the window around dusk last evening – and what do you think I saw? Well, I could only say that it was a murmuration. It wasn’t a big murmuration but it was a murmuration nonetheless.

A murmuration, according to the Collins Dictionary, is: the act of murmuring… as in a murmuration of approving nods. (Not what I saw). It also mentions: a collective term for starlings but in truth, it’s so much more than that.

It’s just a ginormenous flock of starlings wheeling around the sky in joyful unison, a whirling dipping, ever-changing pattern, a grand phenomenon of nature… There are videos on Youtube, if you haven’t seen one yet, it’s worth watching this short one below from Life: The science of Biology.

– but back to last night in Harold’s Cross. My question is: How many starlings do you need anyway, to have a murmuration? These were definitely starlings and they were definitely flying in formation. They were wheeling and dipping and turning in unison and…

Fionnuala says that if you can count them, it’s not a murmuration. Well, when I first noticed them, sometime last summer, there was only six of them, but then there was sixteen. And then the other night, there was eighty-two! Now, come on – you must agree that this was a budding MURMURATION ! ?

Let’s have your observations in the Comments box down below.

2018 Calendar of my paintings




  1. I have to agree with Fionnuala, although it is impressive that you can count that many starlings in flight. The heightened visual perception of the artist. 😉


      • It’s a genuinely interesting question. From what little I know about the phenomenon, it has as much or more to do with physics as biology. I suppose any amount that could create that changing pattern they make would count, so 82 might do it. I’d like to hear what an ornithologist has to say about it. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. The murmuration looks like a shoal of fish , but what is the human face doing in the picture halfway up and to the right side a bit . See it? Actually there are two human faces !! it is beautiful how the birds swoop in sycnopathic ways.


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