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Flocking/Swarming Behavior of Birds

Updated on February 2, 2015

Swarming Behavior of Birds

We all remember "The Birds" by Hitchcock. Reliving parts of the video recently gave me the shivers! A swarm of birds can be intimidating. But, in real life, I find it very fascinating. When you first notice them, it is at a distance. It almost looks like smoke in the air. Only until the radical movement of what you thought was smoke continually shifts, do you realize it is birds. It is the "synchronization" of their performance that is curious. How do they move so fast and not fly into each other?

Photo credit top left:(Richard Barnes)

Of course, fish and other under water creatures perform a similar behavior but it is called shoaling and schooling. This swarming or flocking behavior is indeed a science. In fact, computer simulations and mathematical models which have been developed to emulate the flocking behaviors of birds, can generally be applied also to the "flocking" behavior of other species. As a result, the term "flocking" is sometimes applied, in computer science, to species other than birds.

According to Wikipedia, Flocking behavior has rules:

1. Separation (behavior) - avoid crowding neighbors (short range repulsion)

2. Alignment (behavior) - steer towards average heading of neighbors

3. Cohesion (behavior) - steer towards average position of neighbors (long range attraction)

With these three simple rules, the flock moves in an extremely realistic way, creating complex motion and interaction that would be extremely hard to create otherwise.

There is a theory known as the Browian motion. Scientific studies have been done to model how individuals form swarms through escape and pursuit interactions. Such research has been done via Brownian motion on locust swarms. Brownian motion (named after the Scottish botanist Robert Brown) is the seemingly random movement of particles suspended in a fluid (i.e. a liquid or gas) or the mathematical model used to describe such random movements, often called a particle theory.

Notes: Wikipedia

THE BIRDS 1963 - Alfred Hitchcock

More amazing entertainment from our fine feathered friends!

Birds in Rome

Fascinating video of swarming birds

Flocking "emerges" from simple rules instinctively followed by each bird: keep a precise distance away from and stay aligned with your nearest neighbors, and avoid predators.

There is a list of types of soaring birds, which are birds that can maintain flight without wing flapping, using rising air currents. Many gliding birds are able to 'lock' their extended wings by means of a specialized tendon.

see the list



"I realized that If I had to choose, I would rather have birds than airplanes."

By Charles Lindbergh, Interview shortly before his death, 1974

Fly on In and Leave Us Your Thoughts

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    • blue22d profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      @Rosanna Grace: Thank you for your visit. I appreciate your comments. I am glad you enjoyed learning about their behavior as demonstrated in flocking.

    • blue22d profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      @vineliner57: Thank you for stopping by. Yes, I find it hard not to watch as I even spot geese flying in formation. It is so beautiful.

    • Rosanna Grace profile image

      Rosanna Grace 

      6 years ago

      I love birds and have often wondered about the flocking behaviour. Thanks for explaining! :)

    • vineliner57 profile image

      Hal Gall 

      6 years ago from Bloomington, IN

      I think it is so cool to watch a huge flock of birds all moving together as one in the sky. Very interesting as to why they do this!

    • ClassyGals profile image

      Cynthia Davis 

      6 years ago from Pittsburgh

      A few weeks ago, I was sitting on my front porch and a huge flock of birds flew through my neighborhood. It was a little bit frightening there were so many. Thanks for explaining their flocking behavior. Angel Blessings**

    • Lee Hansen profile image

      Lee Hansen 

      6 years ago from Vermont

      Bird clouds are fascinating, but quite dangerous if they venture into aircraft flight paths. One spring I was able to view a huge flock of snow geese in a field, and watch as large swarms would take off and fly around together over the other thousands of geese resting in a field.

    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 

      7 years ago from Canada

      I love seeing flocks of birds but I think the flock pictured in the video would be enough to give me a little Wonderful topic.

    • Philippians468 profile image


      7 years ago

      i've seen a flock of birds but never have i seen such a beautiful swarm! thank you for sharing! cheers

    • HorseAndPony LM profile image

      HorseAndPony LM 

      7 years ago

      Love this. What a great topic. Thanks for all the great info.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Those are some cool pics and videos of swarming birds and a little scary too!

    • norma-holt profile image


      8 years ago

      Great topic and nicely presented lens. Featured on Save Planet Earth

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Interesting topic as our bird feeders have been taken over by swarms of blackbirds this winter. I'm trying to find out how to discourage them. They are eating us out of seed and my regulars are not happy. Thanks for stopping by my Edgar Whitney lens.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Very interesting. Are we humans behave similarly?

    • Lee Hansen profile image

      Lee Hansen 

      8 years ago from Vermont

      Bird clouds fascinate me to no end. We have many birds in our area, and the region where we live is a major flyway for migrating birds so there are thousands of hawks, snow geese, Canada geese, robins and starlings that pass through in huge flocks every spring and fall. Sometimes it feels like the Hitchcock film, but mostly it's just a joy to be able to see them travel together so well.

    • spunkyduckling profile image


      8 years ago

      I learnt something new :0 didn't know that computers were designed to emulate bird flocking. Thanks for the new knowledge.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Nice harmony the fleets make and you have found out that. Love all the effort and the care for such flights. Thanks so much you made my time.

    • evelynsaenz1 profile image

      Evelyn Saenz 

      9 years ago from Royalton

      They say that there used to be so many pigeons that when they flew overhead they could block out the sun for hours. It is a sight not seen for a couple of centuries. I hear that the Everglades used to be so full of birds that you could hardly see the grass there. Now, even in the National Park it's they seem to be few and far between. I hope that we are able to restore our environment so that some day we will again be able to see great flocks of birds swarming and flying through the sky.

    • sukkran trichy profile image

      sukkran trichy 

      9 years ago from Trichy/Tamil Nadu

      thanks for this new stuff. flocking behavior of birds is very interesting to watch. really a great lens. 5*

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 

      9 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      Oh me! I remember where I was the first time I saw The Birds and I never want to see it again. Now, I am going to have nightmares. lol I watched a swarming of Starlings just the other day. No matter how many times I see Flocking/Swarming Behavior of Birds, it still just takes my breath away.


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