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Flocks of starlings ride the wave to escape

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Why does it seem as if a dark band ripples through a flock of European starlings that are steering clear of a falcon or a hawk? It all lies in the birds' ability to quickly and repeatedly dip to one side to avoid being attacked. For a split second, these zigs change the view that observers on the ground have of the birds' wings to cause a so-called agitation wave. This evasive strategy is copied as quick as a flash from one neighboring bird to the next. The escape behavior underlying this was discovered in a study led by Charlotte Hemelrijk of the Centre for Ecology and Evolutionary Studies in the Netherlands and portrayed in a series of video clips. The findings are published in Springer's journal Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology.


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