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Curious avian behavior

Last November when Paula and I were in Rome we saw a fascinating thing: a swirling cloud of birds which, viewed from a distance, looked more like smoke or a swarm of insects than a flock of birds.

flock of birds

Around dusk Paula and I were walking along the wall of Castel Sant’Angelo in Rome when we saw a massive flock of birds, all seeming to converge on the same location.  The birds looked as though they were heading towards a plume of smoke coming up from one of the city’s parks.  The “smoke”, however, was flowing both up and down.  The best way to get a feel for what it looked like is to check out the video Paula shot with our pocket camera.

Starling murmuration from Reeves Little on Vimeo.

Video: Swirling flock of birds in Rome

We still have no idea what was going on.  Our best guess was some sort of feeding frenzy, catching insects which were coming out as the sun went down… but the flock was way up in the air and I think of insects as sticking closer to the earth. Perhaps there are some amateur (or professional) ornithologists out there who can shed some light on this.  Or maybe I should just ask an Italian.


FYI: Castle Sant’Angelo is a huge mausoleum built for Emperor Hadrian.  It was later fortified and used as a defensive position on the Tiber River.  If you’re in Rome we highly recommend visiting the castle in the afternoon as it provides wonderful views of Rome.  As sunset approaches grab a table at the little cafe located on the monument’s wall.  If you’re lucky you’ll get one of the tables facing the Vatican and get some great pictures of St. Peter’s Basilica with the sun setting behind it.

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