Birds That Flock Together in the Fall: A Bird’s Perspective

Author: Tammy Poppie
Updated:
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birds flocking in the fall

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Birds That Flock Together in the Fall: A Bird’s Perspective

Author: Tammy Poppie
Updated:
Reviewed by:
birds flocking in the fall

This post contains affiliate links, and we will be compensated if you buy after clicking on our links.

Curious about what birds flock in the fall? Well, this article offers a unique perspective from the birds themselves! Join me as we explore which birds gather during autumn and learn why it’s such a special time for us.

The sun’s rays began peeking over the horizon as I woke to a crispness in the air. Up until now, summer’s heat wrapped around me like a warm blanket, but I could feel inside everything was about to change.

I looked around the nest to see my mother had already left in search of breakfast. This once easy trip now took her longer each day, another sign that alerted an internal pulling that seemed to come alive and fill my thoughts with some unknown location that called like a siren.

Finally, I hear the familiar flapping of her wings and get myself ready for her delicious home cooking. After a filling meal, she shares some unexpected news. 

“Little one,” she says in her soothing chirp, ” today you must begin to take flight, as the time of our migration is near.”

I can’t believe it; I’ve dreamed of this day my whole life. I’m finally going to learn how to fly and explore the vast blue sky for myself.

In my excitement, her words hit me; “Migration, what is migration?” I ask my mother what she means, and she explains, “Every year when the weather turns cool, birds of all species flock in the fall. Together they fly away from the cold harshness that winter brings to spend the season in a warmer climate where food is plentiful.” 

“That makes sense,” I think, “but we usually spend our time alone. What does she mean by flocking together, and why do so many species do it?”

“That’s an excellent question, little one,” mother soothes, “let me tell you.”

What are a Group of Birds Called?

“As you know,” Mother continues, “we spend the majority of time on our own, only seeing a few of our closest neighbors as I forage for food. We do this because this is our territory, and most birds prefer to stay in their own area and protect it from anyone else who may try to steal it.

This lifestyle works well during the warmer months when food is more prevalent, but once the cold sets in, finding seeds, nuts, berries, and small insects to eat is more challenging.”

“Is that why we migrate?” I chime in, excited to take part in her story.

“Exactly, my smart feather plume.” 

I scowled slightly at the nickname she had used for me since I was a hatchling. A juvenile like me, who is getting ready to fly on its own and even migrate, is too old for a silly chick name like that.

The twinkle in Mother’s eyes lets me know she sees my dislike for the term but keeps explaining anyway. “With such large distances to fly, it isn’t safe to go alone, which is why we band together with other birds just like us and set out on our journey together.

Any large group of birds is called a flock, and they can be made up of any species, like sandhill cranes, pigeons, finches, geese, storks, egrets, pelicans, blackbirds, and even robins like us. 

Why Birds Flock in the Fall

“That’s so cool,” I say, “So we stick together to stay safe from predators?”

I remember Mother telling me about predators when I was younger.

She said the reason she built our nest in a tree was to keep it concealed from other animals who would try to hurt us. She said that while robins like us choose to nest in trees, different species prefer to live on the ground or even on the side of mountains.

“That’s a reason, yes,” Mother responds, “but it’s not the only one.” 

More Eyes Mean More Safety

“When we have a large flock traveling together,” Mother continues, “we can all keep our eyes out for danger, both in the air and on the ground.

We move together, shifting left to right, in what looks like a dance, which can help us evade predators and keep them from capturing those who may not be as fast or strong.”

Common Resources

“We are all in search of food since migration takes a lot of energy, and flocks generally congregate at communal sites to rest and recharge.” The more birds keeping an eye out for a place to eat, the better the chance that we will find nourishment along the way,” Mother points out.

Similar Flight Patterns

“Mother?” I ask, “Yes, little one?” “Are there a lot of other birds that flock together?”

“Oh yes,” she answers, “For some species like Broad-winged Hawks, spotting large flocks of birds traveling together shows them where the best thermal air is, which makes migration easier.”

“You see,” she explains, “there are millions of birds going in the same general direction as their instincts guide them to warmer climates. Sometimes, we can unintentionally flock together as we travel along the same paths, encountering large groups of species we may not have come in contact with otherwise.”

“That sounds scary,” I chirp, “What happens if I get lost?”

“Being among so many other birds can be a bit intimidating for backyard birds like us, but don’t worry,” Mother comforted, “I’ll be next to you the whole time, and I’ll keep you safe!” 

Types of Flocks

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I have to admit, hearing Mother say she would keep me safe made me feel better. I may be a juvenile already, but that doesn’t mean I’m ready to go on this long journey alone! I sat there thinking about everything I just learned and about how I would encounter a ton of new friends along the way.

I was so excited to meet other robins just like me and discover how many other species of birds there are. Then a thought occurred to me, “Mother?” I asked, “Are all flocks the same, or are there different types?”

“Another great question, feather plume.” I’m convinced she’s saying it now just for her own entertainment. “While many different birds flock together, there are two types of flocks, same and mixed species.”

“You mean different species of birds flock together?” I questioned, surprised.

“Of course! While many flocks contain the same species, it’s common to see two, three, or even more species flocking simultaneously, especially in areas where food is abundant.” 

Time of Year Birds Swarm Together

Picturing what it must look like to see all the different flocks of birds migrating to their summer homes made me wonder.

“Do all birds flock at the same time?”

Mother answered, “Birds flock in the cooler months as they migrate toward warmer climates or during breeding season when we are searching for a mate. Then, around springtime, those who migrated begin heading back home.”

Species of Birds that Flock

“Mother, you mentioned some types of species that flock; are there any more?”

flock of flamingos
A flamboyance of flamingos.

“Yes, there are many species of birds that flock, and each one has a special name for their grouping. For example,” Mother explained, “Starlings and blackbirds are called murmurations, crows are called a murder, flamingos are a flamboyance, and cranes are a sedge.

“Do robin flocks have a special name,” I asked excitedly.

“Yes,” chuckled Mother, “In fact, there are eleven names for a group of robins!”

“Eleven!” I exclaimed, “We must be the best species of bird out there if we have that many names for our flocks.”

Mother smiled, “We are in my book, little one.”

Risks of Flocking

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“There are some dangers I have to warn you about before we set out, just so you can be prepared and stay safe along the way.” Mother’s change in tone took me slightly off-guard; I wasn’t used to her sounding so serious.

One of our neighbors told me of a story of a whole flock crashing during their migration.

Shock and fear fill me, “How do flocks of birds fall from the sky?” I wonder.

“Do you remember when I talked to you earlier about predators?” I shook my head to show her I was paying close attention.

“When we are flying, it’s important to keep your eyes out for them because they can often surprise us, causing disorientation and making us crash to the ground.” 

“Additionally, there may not be enough places to rest when we take a break, so you may encounter some aggressive birds.”

I didn’t like the sound of that, but I made sure to keep listening.

“Sometimes food can become scarce, and we will have to fight others for the small amount that is available,” Mother continued, “If this happens, you must be fast and ready to stand your ground.”

“Finally, with so many birds packed closely together, you can become sick if you’re not careful. Try to keep a safe distance from others, and if anyone looks ill, stay away from them.”

With that, Mother’s tone lightened, and she regained her happy appearance. “Don’t worry, little one, being a part of a flock is an incredible experience, and you’re going to have a great time. And, of course, I’ll be flying next to you the whole way!

Now, let’s start your flying lessons so you’re ready to go when the flock takes flight!”

“Yes!” I think, “I’m going to have the best time; I can’t wait to join our flock and go on a new adventure!” 

“Birds Flock in the Fall” Story Conclusion

After a few days, I’ve become quite the flyer, and Mother says I’m ready to join my first flock. I’ll keep everything she said in mind so I can have the best adventure. I can’t wait to see what cool birds I’ll meet and the beautiful sights I’ll discover along the way!


If you’re up for a real treat, you must check out this video of a man who literally flies with migrating birds. Absolutely amazing!

YouTube video

FAQs

How much is a flock of birds?

The size of a flock of birds can vary widely depending on the species of birds concerned and their behavior. There is no specific number that defines a flock universally, as it can range from just a few birds to hundreds or even millions in the case of particular bird species.

For example:

  • Small songbirds may gather in flocks of a dozen or so.
  • Waterfowl like ducks and geese often form enormous flocks that can number in the hundreds or thousands.
  • Species like starlings and blackbirds are known for forming giant flocks called murmurations, which can contain tens of thousands or more.

Do bird flocks have leaders?

Yes, many bird flocks do have leaders or individuals who take on a leadership role. These leaders are often experienced and skilled members of the flock who help guide the group’s movements. They can be important for maintaining the cohesion and coordination of the flock during flight.

In some cases, the leader’s function may involve making decisions about the flock’s direction and timing of movements, especially during migration. Other times, the leader may simply set the pace, and other birds follow its actions closely.

However, it’s important to note that not all flocks have clear leaders, and the dynamics of flock leadership can vary depending on the species and the circumstance. In some cases, leadership may pivot among different individuals within the flock.

Why do birds fly in a V formation?

Birds often fly in a V formation for several reasons, primarily related to energy efficiency and communication:

  1. Aerodynamic Efficiency: Flying in a V formation decreases air resistance, making it easier for birds to fly through the air. Each bird takes advantage of the upwash of air created by the bird in front of it, which provides a small lift, reducing the effort needed to fly.
  2. Energy Conservation: When birds fly in a V formation, they can save energy compared to flying by themselves. This energy conservation is especially important during long-distance migrations when birds need to cover extended distances without stopping to rest continually.
  3. Communication: The V formation allows for better communication among flock members. Birds can see and hear each other more easily when they are positioned in this way. This helps them harmonize their movements and stay together as a blended group.
  4. Navigation: Flying in a V formation can also help navigation. Birds can follow the lead bird, which often has a better sense of direction or knowledge of the migration route. This is especially helpful in difficult weather conditions or when migrating over unfamiliar terrain.
  5. Protection: The V formation can provide some protection from predators. Birds at the back of the V may have a reduced risk of being targeted by predators, as they are protected by those in front.

How do flocks of birds communicate?

Flocks of birds communicate with each other using several methods. They’ll use calls and chirps to stay in touch while flying together, signaling danger or shifts in direction. Additionally, their synchronized motions and patterns help them coordinate their actions without words.

Do flocks of birds fly at night?

Yes, many flocks of birds do fly at night during migration. This behavior is known as nocturnal migration. Flying at night helps them avoid predators and take advantage of cooler temperatures and calmer winds. Some birds, like songbirds, often migrate at night, using the stars and Earth’s magnetic field for navigation.

Do flocks of birds poop at the same time?

Flocks of birds do not typically poop at the same time deliberately. Bird droppings occur as a natural function, and each bird may poop independently. However, it is possible that multiple birds in a flock could happen to defecate at around the same time by chance, but there is no coordinated plan among the birds to do so.

How do flocks of birds fly in unison?

Flocks of birds fly in unison through a blend of instinct, observation, and simple rules of interaction. This phenomenon is known as flocking behavior. Here’s how it works:

  1. Individual Observation: Each bird in the flock pays attention to the movements of its nearby neighbors. Birds maintain a certain distance and alignment with respect to their neighbors.
  2. Alignment: Birds tend to align themselves with the direction in which their neighbors are moving. If a bird nearby turns or changes speed, the surrounding birds will adjust their flight to match.
  3. Cohesion: Birds are naturally inclined to stay close to one another. They try to stay at an optimal distance from their neighbors to maintain a cohesive group.
  4. Avoidance: Birds also have an instinct to avoid collisions. They will adjust their positions to prevent crashing into other birds in the flock.
  5. Leader-Follower Dynamics: Within the flock, there may be one or more individuals that take on a leadership role. Other birds tend to follow the movements of these leaders.
  6. Communication: Birds use visual cues and simple vocalizations to communicate with each other, which helps in maintaining the flock’s cohesion and alignment.
  7. Sensitivity to Environmental Cues: Birds are also sensitive to environmental cues like wind patterns, which can influence their flight direction and speed.

This combination of individual awareness and simple rules allows birds to coordinate their movements and fly in unison, creating mesmerizing aerial displays.

Are all groups of birds flocks?

No, not all groups of birds are called flocks. While “flock” is a common word for a group of birds, there are different nouns used for groups of birds depending on the species and circumstance. For example:

  1. Flock: This term is commonly used for groups of various bird species, particularly smaller ones like sparrows, finches, and starlings.
  2. Herd: Herd is used for clusters of large, land-dwelling birds like ostriches or emus.
  3. Murder: This term is specifically used for a group of crows.
  4. Gaggle: Gaggle is used for a group of geese, especially when they are on land.
  5. Colony: Colony is often used for groups of birds that nest jointly in close proximity, such as seabirds on cliffs or penguins.
  6. Flight: Flight is used for groups of birds when they are in flight, like a “flight of swallows.”
  7. Pod: Pod is used for a group of pelicans.

Sources

Nagy, M., Ákos, Z., Biro, D. et al. Hierarchical group dynamics in pigeon flocks. Nature 464, 890–893 (2010).

Portugal, Steven J., Bird flocks. Current Biology Volume 30, Issue 5, (2020).

Cavanah, Sarah., Owens, Seth., Kemink, Kaylan., Kim, Soojung. Lee, Joonghwa, Ellis-Felege, Susan.

More than 25 years ago, Tammy put her first bird feeder outside her kitchen window. Since then she learned how to attract wild birds to her backyard. Studying the meaning & symbolism of wild birds is also a passion of hers. Read more about Tammy