So, Texans are scared of birds

A Walmart in Texas that was overrun by thousands of birds has been hailed as a sign of “death,” “disaster” and the “apocalypse.”

Shoppers were seemingly trapped in their cars—and presumably the store—when the flock descended onto the supermarket’s parking lot, off highway 80 in Mesquite…

Houston Audubon, a non-profit focusing on “protecting the natural environment for birds and people,” explained these sights are not uncommon.

While the birds in the clips were unconfirmed, the site said: “Great-tailed Grackles are a permanent sight in Houston and can be found in any area inhabited by humans that has some trees.

“They tend to congregate in large flocks and prefer shopping centers and fast-food store parking lots where there’s trash for food and trees or light posts for perching…In the evening, raucous flocks pack neighborhood trees creating noisy roosting aggregations.”

I think these folks spend too much time watching horror movies. This is common behavior, especially near sunset this time of year, looking for a place to roost…though feeding time is OK for sighting what is termed a “murmuration” of blackbirds. Some parts of Texas are uptight about grackles, the largest black birds this side of their cousin crows. Flocks often include starlings [not related] or red-wing blackbirds [more crow relatives].

In our neck of the prairie, someone outdoors spots a murmuration coming, they holler to folks indoors to come out and watch. They’re beautiful.

Order and harmony in a murmuration


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At first, they trickle in: one bird here, a few birds there. Then, at dusk’s cue, a dark smudge materializes on the horizon. Thousands of starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) slowly come into focus, etching flight paths across the winter sky as they stream toward their evening roost in north-central England. Suddenly, the flock dips and twists like a horse tossing its head. It swirls into a funnel, then cartwheels to the side, shapeshifting in seemingly effortless unison. All the while, the birds’ feverish wingbeats and raucous chatter reverberate through the air—and reveal why this intricately coordinated performance earned its name: a murmuration.

Each winter, starlings gather in large flocks of up to 100,000 individuals across the United Kingdom. Most have migrated from northern Europe seeking milder temperatures and more abundant food. Their arrival is celebrated by residents outside the city of Sheffield, England where restored wetlands offer prime roost habitat, and where vast horizons make a perfect theater for evening murmurations. Among the routine spectators is Kathryn Cooper, a physicist-turned-photographer who sees more than just a mesmerizing aerial display. Trained in bioinformatics, Cooper has a keen eye for understanding complex data. “I’m interested in the transient moments when chaos briefly changes to order, and thousands of individual bodies appear to move as one,” she says.

RTFA and enjoy Kathryn Cooper’s photos.