flock of starlings over israel 1-24-13

A phantasmagoric flock of starlings creates its own kind of Rorschach test in the sky — and a bit of art, too — in an image taken on January 24, 2013 over the southern Israeli city of Netivot. (Video of the event here.) This spellbinding natural phenomenon turns out to have a quite beautiful name, “murmuration,” which refers to the uniquely collective behavior exhibited by starlings. Likened to metals becoming magnetized, murmurations and their patterns have both baffled and dazzled naturalists throughout time. A couple of theories posit that these spontaneous aggregations are a result of socializing instincts amongst the species, as well as the possibility of safety in magnitude, as the birds scare off potential predators due to their sheer numbers. Regardless of the scientific explanations, the overall impression is one of a fluid aerial canvas, a sublime reminder that the power of nature can be as deeply affecting as any work of art…

 (Photo: Amir Cohen / Reuters)