Birds of a feather flock together. But have you ever wondered why they do so?

Birds form flocks for a number of different reasons and flocks may differ in size and occur in different seasons. Flocks may include single or mixed species of birds. For example starlings often feed with mixed groups of thrushes and tits and finches will also form mixed species flocks.

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There are a number of advantages for birds forming flocks including protection from predators, finding food and keeping warm. Some birds will form flocks to raise families on nesting sites called rookeries. Although the chicks in each nest will be cared for primarily by their own parents, larger flocks of birds are able to be on the watch out for predators and look out for particularly vulnerable birds.

Birds will often fly in flocks arranging themselves in specific formations to take advantage of aerodynamics to allow birds to fly in the most efficient way. This means that birds can fly for longer periods of time whilst conserving energy, which is essential during migration.

One of the most famous types of flock of birds is the starlings’ murmuration. Murmurations are breathtaking spectacles where thousands of birds gather together to perform amazing aerial stunts. Little is known about murmurations although scientists believe these fascinating displays have more to do with physics than biology and are similar to other systems such as magnetism. The change in behaviour of one bird has an effect on all other birds in the group, no matter how large the group is in a phenomena called “scale-free correlation”.

Birds that flock together in large flocks are described as gregarious and although there are number of advantages to being gregarious, flocking birds are also more susceptible to the spread of disease.

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