Last evening I was sitting on the patio just before sunset, when my vision was filled with hundreds of birds flying overhead, flocked together, and headed the same Southward direction. This was not the first time I have noticed these fancy fliers.
At our previous house, about 8 miles away from here, and 2-3 years ago, is when I first noticed these flocks, seemingly following the sunset. I found that I could darn near set my watch by them, 6:30 PM, October – March. It was then that my curiosity was stirred, but it piqued today, as I gave way to study for an explaination.
Why do they do this? Where are they going? What allows them to do so in such a scheduled way? How does such a large group of birds come together and head the same direction – happily chatting along the way, I might add.
They look something like this, except thousands fly overhead… they just keep coming and chatting. They don’t usually swarm and do fancy manuvers until they are over their roosting spot. My home, isn’t their roosting spot. So, all I see is bunches of squacking birds in the sky.
This is called a “crow murmuration”.
What’s happening is:
- The birds are returning to their roosting site. They leave in the morning to feed, and return in the evening. Their roosting and feeding spots can be far from each other.
- They fly in circular patterns to confuse predators, but actually their sheer size alone connfuses predators. Hence, this is literally called, “The confusion effect”.
- They are flying to find their roosting spot and warmth during the cold winter nights.
These murmurations can number from 100’s to 1,000’s of birds, all flying at sunset.
During these frenzied flight patterns some pretty cool things are actually happening. The birds are exchanging information on feeding sites that they found during the day. But some are making their territorial mating calls – telling their partner where they are. Scientists tell us that birds communicate more intensively during sunrise and sunset. And, they are loud and noisey too!
Crazy, smart and loud birds, right?
How do they know where to go? And what about those birds that migrate 1,000’s of miles, non-stop? How do they do it and know their course? The smart ones, who study such things, tell us that these birds can detect the energy of the Earth’s magnetic field. Built within them, is some sort of navigational compass that helps them to travel long distances.
I remember teaching Life Science years ago, at the middle school level and teaching about the magnetic particles, thought to be in the birds beak. These particles provided a navigational map used in conjunction with the Earth’s magnetic field that kept them on course. These tiny particles are so small, the magnetic pieces in the bird haven’t even been located yet. Scientists aren’t sure where they are.
But the most recent studies tell us that there are proteins in the birds eyes that allow them to visualize magnetic fields. And so, their sense of direction is associated with this field. There is even some research to suggest there may be parts of the birds inner ear that picks up on the currents of magnetism in the Earth’s atmosphere.
So, is the bird equipped with what it needs to navigate in it’s nose, eyes, or ears? We really don’t know for sure.
You know what else we don’t know? We don’t know how their brain processes all this. Scientists don’t know the part of their brain that handles this process and they don’t know how it actually processes these signals which are translated into directions for the birdie. The area of the brain where magnetic directional information is processed is still not clear.
Even the homing ability of the homing pigeon is based on the “map and compass” model – which detects Earth’s magnetic field. That smart lil bird has served as messengers to deliver communication, signals and even compete in long distance races. They too, have an inate homing ability that most often allows it to return to it’s nest, using, you got it, magnetoreception.
So, whether it be in the ophthalmic nerve in the upper beak, a protein in the eye, or a current buzzing in it’s ear, these birds have been created with a device within them, to bring them home, that science does not understand.
Why would we think we are any less than these birds?
“He has set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”Ecclesiates 3:11
We too, have been created with a device within us, to bring us home, that science does not understand.
We would be wise to learn this lesson from the birds.
Cheers to you,