It is a sight people travel miles to witness – hundreds, and often thousands, of starlings grouped together and flying in spectacular formation, known as a murmuration.

The phenomenon can be found in autumn and winter, generally between October and March, when birds from mainland Europe fly to the UK to spend the winter months.

Crowds of people have been gathering at Poldhu Cove near Mullion, on the Lizard Peninsula, over the last few days, where starlings have been displaying their skills.

Falmouth Packet: A beautiful heart formationA beautiful heart formation (Image: Kathy White)

Their synchronised flight has been seen around dusk, a multitude of flapping wings swooping across the sky to create patterns and waves.

While it is not clear why starlings make a murmuration, researchers recently found that it is most likely to keep them safe from predators.

Falmouth Packet: The sky is filled with hundreds, if not thousands, of starlingsThe sky is filled with hundreds, if not thousands, of starlings (Image: Kathy White)

Falmouth Packet: Large crowds have been gathering to watchLarge crowds have been gathering to watch (Image: Kathy White)

The greater the number, the less chance there is of being singled out by an airborne predator, and studies have shown that starlings often change places, moving around the flock towards the centre, to minimise their time on the edge where they are most vulnerable to attack.

According to the Natural History Museum, the term murmuration is named after the noise that is made by the many flapping wings of a group of starlings in flight, which creates a kind of ‘murmur’.

Falmouth Packet: Starlings fly from mainland Europe to spend winter in the UKStarlings fly from mainland Europe to spend winter in the UK (Image: Kathy White)

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Explaining the phenomenon, the museum says on its website: “Starlings form the incredible patterns seen in a murmuration by following simple rules of movement in relation to each other.

“When in flight, each starling matches their movements to the birds surrounding it. If one starling changes its flight direction or speed, the birds around it also change their flight direction or speed. This change spreads throughout the group and creates the patterns of the murmuration.

Falmouth Packet: Birds fly at around 45 kilometres an hour during a murmurationBirds fly at around 45 kilometres an hour during a murmuration (Image: Kathy White)

"In autumn, starlings from mainland Europe migrate across the channel to spend the winter in the UK. Together, they form massive flocks made up of thousands of birds."

Falmouth Packet: The birds fly in formationThe birds fly in formation (Image: Kathy White)

It is believed that during a murmuration, a starling flies at around 45 kilometres an hour – just under 30 miles an hour – making small variations in its speed and direction to create the stunning effect.