Why do starlings form murmurations?
During the winter months starlings gather in the UK from the continent seeking the (slightly) warmer temperatures. They start forming in November and can often be seen through to late January/early February. Flocks arrive from all directions as dusk draws near to form murmurations containing thousands of birds. The flock twists and turns in the sky to form incredible shapes. Numbers reach their peak as the evening light fades, then without warning the murmuration cascades into a nearby reedbeds and silence falls. Thousands of birds disappear from sight until the next day when they will perform their winter wildlife spectacle all over again.
There are many theories behind the reason for starlings forming these vast groups, the main one being is safety in numbers. If you are lucky enough to see a murmuration you may also notice another type of bird in the sky - Sparrowhawks. The predators try their luck at catching a starling which causes the murmuration to condense and change shape in the blink of an eye. Sparrowhawks rarely catch starlings when they are in such large number as it is so difficult to choose one bird to target in the middle of a hypnotising flock.
Wrap up warm!
For the best chance to see the starling murmurations, wrap up warm and head to the site around an hour before sunset. If you are viewing the murmurations at Attenborough or Idle Valley enjoy the warmth of the cafe and grab a hot drink and a sweet treat before you head outside in the cold. It can get chilly standing around waiting for the birds to appear but it'll be worth the wait!
Keep an eye on our social media accounts for up to date information on the best places to see them.
Attenborough Starling Murmuration FAQs
What time should I get there?
We recommend getting to the viewing area for around 3.45pm-4pm. The starlings have been gathering from 4pm so get there in plenty of time to get a good viewing spot! The viewing area is around a 25-30 minute walk from the car park and visitor centre so take this into account.
The length of the starling's show can vary but stick around until the end, the spectactular plunge into the reeds is just as (if not more) exciting!
Where is the best place to view them?
There is a viewing area signposted. Walk towards the church from the visitor centre and you'll come across signs directing you to the best area to view the murmurations.
There is a steep slope down to the grass clearing so please wear suitable shoes and of course wrap up warm. For an accessible viewing area turn right before you reach the weir and you can watch the murmuration from the path.
(the viewing area is circled in red)
Where can I park?
Please park in the Visitor Centre car park at Attenborough Nature Reserve. We are keeping the car park open later than the usual 5pm close so there is no need to rush back once the starlings have roosted.
Is this free to attend?
Of course. We do not charge anyone to view this incredible wildlife spectacle! We will have volunteers at the murmuration site so please consider making a small donation. Our reserves are expensive to maintain and we rely on generosity from our visitors and members to keep these areas a haven for wildlife. Another way to support the wildlife on your doorstep is to join Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust as a member. We are currently offering half price membership until the end of January (from as little as £1.37 per month).