Who hasn’t marveled at the way bird flocks seem to move as a single organism? Groups ranging in size from a dozen Zebra Finches to millions of Budgerigars change direction with astonishing fluidity and speed, confusing predators and leaving observers to wonder just how they mange to accomplish such feats.
While birding in deserts, grasslands and other open habitats that allowed long, clear views of large flocks, I’ve tried, unsuccessfully, to determine if it was a single leader “calling the shots” or some sort of unobservable group dynamics at work.
Recently, researchers at Oxford and Eotvos Universities have provided part of the answer, at least where pigeons are concerned. Research published in the April, 2010 edition of the journal Nature, establishes that pigeons use flexible hierarchy system to make group decisions (direction of travel, choice of feeding site, etc.). Read More »