Two tourists canoeing across the River Shannon in Ireland to a small island stumbled across a spectacular sight – a murmuration (a flock of starlings).

What these tourists saw was thousands of tiny starlings battling for survival. The birds swirl and loop about the sky in a battle to determine the weakest of the flock and who is a target for predators.

Each bird tries to copy the bird next to it causing this amazing rippling effect. The flock reaches speeds of up to 20 mph.

This murmuration usually takes place at the beginning of winter, just before dusk, when the birds will look for a place to roost for the night.

Daniel Butler in the Telegraph described the natural wonder of mumurations. He said “Each bird strives to fly as close to its neighbors as possible, instantly copying any changes in speed or direction. As a result, tiny deviations by one bird are magnified and distorted by those surrounding it, creating rippling, swirling patterns.”

He continues by explaining the birds reasoning behind this strange fight for survival. He said “Starlings are tasty morsels for peregrines, merlins and sparrowhawks. The answer is to seek safety in numbers, gathering in flocks and with every bird trying to avoid the edge where adept predators can sometimes snatch a victim.”

This video was shot by, Vimeo user, Sophie Windsor Clive and her companion Liberty Smith. The pair seemed to happen upon this remarkable event.

Here’s Sophie Windsor Clive’s spectacular video:

Murmuration from Sophie Windsor Clive on Vimeo.

Originally published in 2011.