murmuration 241113


i heard a starling mimic a curlew

(from a rooftop in my not-too-special cul-de-sac by the sea)


the exceptional in the mundane

the profound in the everyday[i]


a smallish, brownish, commonish bird[ii]

identifies a recognizable signature phrase –

an aspect of its local environment[iii]

and repeats it effortlessly for its own entertainment


we do not need to shout from the rooftops to be heard

we do not need to shock with our wit and originality

we do not need to make a big song and dance about it


there is magic and beauty and wonder

quite simply


murmuration 241113surprising starlings (p ward 2013)

© P Ward 2013

[i] Such principles have been expounded upon within spiritual systems such as Buddhism and Taoism, and more recently celebrated by feminism and notably the work of American contemporary artist Mierle Laderman Ukeles.

[ii] Of course, anyone who knows anything about the starling (Sturnus vulgaris) will be familiar with the spectacular mass in-flight displays, or murmurations, of this species as it (apparently) confounds and confuses predators – anything but mundane! Despite its often seemingly large numbers, in my own lifetime, its numbers have actually decreased massively, so it is anything but ‘common’ either… “Although the starling has the capacity for explosive population growth, its population in Britain has declined by two-thirds over the last 40 years. Here we summarize a major study (Crick et al., 2002) which investigates the reasons for this. The starling is commonest in urban and farmland habitats, though density in the latter is much lower; the total breeding population is estimated at 9 million birds. In general, breeding productivity has increased, while survival, particularly of juveniles, has shown periods of decrease. The decline on farmland has been greater in pastoral areas, and is probably linked to reduced foraging opportunities associated with more intensive agricultural management. There is some evidence for a decline in urban populations, but data are scant and possible reasons for decline there are unclear.” (From But it is brown, apart from, that is, it’s glossy speckled iridescent adult plumage. OK, so it’s small, relatively speaking of course!?!

[iii] A refreshing change from the mobile phone ringtones often chosen by the species!?!


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