Flock Murmurations – How Just One Bird Can Urge an Entire Flock to Change Directions

The equations that describe these movements are equivalent to those that govern waves.

Cavagna was hardly the first scientist to be intrigued by these acrobatics—known, in a rare instance of technical language coinciding with poetry, as “murmurations.” Other animals that travel in groups—schooling fish, most obviously—show the same uncanny ability to move in apparent unison away from a predator or toward a food source. One 20th-century ornithologist seriously proposed that they coordinated their movements by telepathy. That possibility hasn’t found much support in biology. The other explanation is that a signal to change direction originates with one or a few individuals, probably on the periphery (the ones most likely to see a threat), and travels as a wave front across the flock, like a ripple spreading across a pond from a dropped pebble. It is just an artifact of human vision that we can’t see it happen in real time. But high-speed cameras can capture it, and computers can model the behavior.


About Giorgio Bertini

Research Professor. Founder Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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