An Enormous Murmuration of Starlings Eclipsed the Sky Over Rome

It's such a big problem that the city has had to call in falcons.

In a photo that perfectly captured the dystopian spirit of 2018, a viral Reddit image posted in February showed the sky over Rome blotted out by an immense blizzard of thousands of swarming birds. In a formation so dense it looks like TV static, the starlings were so tightly packed that they blocked out the sun.

Writing about the viral image shortly after it was posted, Inverse reported that starlings migrate in huge numbers each fall from chilly eastern Europe and Scandinavia through Rome, where it’s a little warmer. The video above shows how the birds move in tightly synchronized formation.

Up to 4 million birds migrate in these huge “murmurations” each year, but the damage they cause is far more serious than a blotted-out sky.

This is #21 on Inverse’s list of the 25 Most WTF stories of 2018.

Thousands of starlings flood the sky over Rome in this viral Reddit image.


The actual problem with all these migrating starlings is not that they shut out the light but that they blanket everything in smelly, greasy guano. Because the starlings feast in the olive groves outside of Rome, their poop is super oily. And there is a lot of it — so much so that tourists must use umbrellas to avoid getting rained on, and Rome has had to call in the big guns to get rid of the pesky birds.

In November, The Guardian reported that Rome’s environmental sustainability department has enlisted the help of trained falcons to scare the starlings away from nesting near the city center. The move, which they call a “cruelty-free, ecological and natural solution,” has been condemned by local animal rights activists. There is also a hotline that residents can call to report murmurations of starlings near the city center, presumably so that officials can scare them away.

Perhaps fittingly, the starlings and their falcon guardians add yet another dimension to the increasingly chaotic, zoo-like atmosphere of Rome in 2018. The city is already overrun with seagulls, its parks are filled with sheep deployed to keep grass short, and wild boars have been spotted rummaging through city trash. The state of the Eternal City has gotten so bad that locals staged a sit-in in October, using the hashtag #romadicebasta – “Rome says enough.”

As 2018 draws to a close, Inverse is counting down the 25 stories that made us go WTF. Some are gross, some are amazing, and some are just, well, WTF. In our ranking from least to most WTF, this has been #21. Read the original article here.

Watch the full 25 WTF countdown in the video below.

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