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.

Brighton's Amazing Starlings

Starling Supernova

Air Traffic

Starling Silhouettes, Brighton

Waltz on Wings

Everything Counts in Large Amounts

The Climbing Starlings


Anonymous said…
My daughter & I came to Brighton in November 2012 to see the murmuration of the starlings. It was amazing to feel part of such a fascinating event. On two afternoons we sat on the beach wrapped in our blanket, until that almost switch-like moment when the birds land and the display is over.
Your photos bring so much pleasure to those of us who
a) live far away and
b) have inferior photographic equipment!
However, there is nothing like being there, seeing, hearing the birds, the sea with the buzz of Brighton in the background.
Thank you Alan.
Best wishes
Margaret said…
Sorry, I didn't intend to be Anonymous.
Margaret from Hertfordshire
Re Nov 2012 visit to the starlings
Alan MacKenzie said…
Hello Margaret, the great thing about watching the starlings at Brighton Pier, is one can get so close and the birds always appear in the same place. More starlings gather over the Somerset Levels and Otmoor in Oxfordshire, but you never know quite where! In Brighton, you can view the murmurations from a raised platform, buy some coffee and use the toilets. Where can you do that in the middle of rural Somerset?

I had the privilege of viewing the murmurations through my own senses, yesterday afternoon. As a photographer, I seldom get the chance to enjoy nature directly. I put my camera away and simply watched...

Since you live in Hertfordshire, you may be using the First Capital Connect service to reach Brighton. If you do, there's a lovely rural station called Balcombe (between Three Bridges and Haywards Heath). The countryside and woodland around Balcombe is very picturesque and typically English bucolic. Roe and Fallow deer can be seen in late evening. If you look around my website, you'll find some examples.

I hope you both visit next year.
Margaret said…
Thanks Alan.
Yes, FCC no-change train service is good, esp if get a slightly cheaper ticket thro Tourist Info.
Balcombe sounds interesting too.
Are the Brighton starlings around for a bit longer this month? Daughter & I really want father/husband who is rising 70 to see the birds, as he will love seeing them.
It would be good to get sunshine/sunset as seen on Weds 14 Nov 2012. The next day, birds seemed to be on the Palace Pier, rather than West Pier. What spot do you recommend, or does it vary day by day?
Alan MacKenzie said…
I wouldn't entertain the idea of observing starlings over the West Pier; there is no longer any shelter and hence murmurations are small or absent.

The best place to view the starlings on Brighton Pier is on the west side, facing the sunset, adjacent to the first games pavilion with BRIGHTON PIER illuminated lettering.

It is difficult to predict starling activity. It does vary. This month has shown consistently large murmurations. Someone has informed me that the starlings remain here until mid-to-late March.

Check the weather forecast. Clear and sunny conditions provide spectacular viewing conditions. If high cloud is forecast late in the day, postpone your visit.

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