words: by Sarah George
Most of us would much rather migrate to Barcelona than to Brighton for the winter months, but every winter tens of thousands of starlings flock to the chilly South coast for a brisk winter getaway.
If you head down to the seafront at dusk, you should be lucky enough to watch in wonder as up to 40,000 birds perform their stunning aerial displays, known as murmurations. These displays are essentially dinner time for the hungry birds, who gather in huge cloud-shaped formations to catch their last meal of the day before roosting under the Brighton pier and chattering until dusk. Their meal is well-deserved; starlings regularly fly up to 20 miles away from their winter roost in the downs to feed during the day.
“Brighton is famous for this amazing spectacle of nature and people come from miles to watch,” says Chris Woolner, RSPB South East Project Officer. ” It really is a mesmerising experience and when you stand on the pier as the flock sweeps towards and around you feel like you are part of it.”
For your best chance of catching a glimpse of this awe-inspiring natural phenomenon, get down to the seafront between the West pier and Brighton pier between 4pm and nightfall before the end of the month. Our feathered friends tend to put on a show almost every night. It truly is an immersive experience – you’ll be able to hear chirping, chattering and a the beating of thousands of wings as starlings dance overhead. If you’re looking to get your kids away from the telly for a while or you’re searching for a new romantic sight, the murmurations are a January must-see.
The spectacular is made all the more special by its rarity – you might have to watch it soon while you have the chance. The starling breeding population has been declining for 40 years and has dropped by 81% since 1970, according to the State of UK Birds report. The RSPB encourages people to keep their bird tables and gardens stocked with seeds or suet balls to help make sure that the starlings are getting enough food during the cold months.
For more RSPB information on our special starlings, click here.