The Birds

On and around a condemned building in the Rue de l’Orillon, a group of starlings is currently putting on a performance each evening at dusk. But for how long?

Around an hour before sundown they begin to gather. Not in trees or on rooftops but instead on the metallic branches of an giant television antenna. A clandestine and somewhat dangerous-looking installation, it nevertheless provides the perfect look-out spot across the city.

They arrive in groups of 15-20 birds, feral packs that have spent the day scavanging across different parts of the city. The birds jostle for position on the arial, before setting out on their mass pre-bedtime swooping, twisting display.

There are perhaps around 200 birds in this group, and although the spectacle is not the “thickening, deepening and blackening” show that the poet Samuel Coleridge once observed, it is nevertheless impressive in this urban setting.

In more rural locations, groups of starlings – known as a murmuration – can regularly include several thousand birds, creating incredible shapes in the sky. Quite why or how they do this is not known, although it is a phenomena that has long been researched by biologists, and also more recently by physicists, aeronautical engineers, mathematicians and computer scientists.

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