Brighton's Amazing Starling Murmurations
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Each winter afternoon, before sunset, starlings gather in giant groups, known as murmurations. This is a survival strategy. Forty thousand pairs of eyes seek out predators and keep the group safe. Flying around for twenty minutes increases body temperature; as the starlings roost underneath Brighton Pier, their collective body heat keeps the group warm overnight. The murmuration flight pattern results in a hierarchy of roosting perches. Dominant males get the warmest, most sheltered central locations, while juvenile males and all females have to sleep in the draughtiest, coldest spots near to the perimeter. Starlings first began gathering around the Palace Pier and the West Pier after the Great Storm of 1987, when 16 million trees across southern England were destroyed. Wintering starlings remain in the Brighton area until early March, when they return to continental Europe. In February, the best time and location to view the starling murmurations, is on Brighton Pier, from 16:15 onwards.