Starling murmurations: RSPB Old Moor extends opening hours for visitors

The skies above Barnsley have been all aflutter this month, with tens of thousands of starlings forming breathtaking aerial displays. And it’s not too late to catch them!

Photo: wildscenes.com, RSPB Old Moor

RSPB Old Moor has extended its weekend opening hours throughout March due to the huge amount of interest the spectacular performances, known as ‘murmurations’, have attracted.

Where to see the displays

The Old Moor reserve will stay open until 8pm every Saturday and Sunday in March.

The visitor centre will still close at 5pm, but the side entrance to the reserve can be used for access.

Starlings are currently gathering at around 4pm, and murmurating at around 6.3pm, though this is expected to happen at a progressively later time as the days get longer.

Photo: Jane Hewitt, RSPB Old Moor

Liane Holdsworth, Visitor Experience Manager at RSPB Old Moor, said: “As the skies get dark the [starlings] drop into the reedbeds for the night.  There are approximately 15,000 – 30,000 at the moment, and we hope they will continue until at least mid-March when they will start to disperse to form their own nest sites.”

RSPB Old Moor is situated in the heart of South Yorkshire’s Dearne Valley, just off the A6195 near Barnsley.

Why do starlings form murmurations?

The RSPB website says that murmurations are “basically a mass aerial stunt – thousands of birds all swooping and diving in unison. It’s completely breathtaking to witness.

“We think that starlings do it for many reasons. Grouping together offers safety in numbers – predators such as peregrine falcons find it hard to target one bird in the middle of a hypnotising flock of thousands.

Photo: M Capper, RSPB Old Moor

“They also gather to keep warm at night and to exchange information, such as good feeding areas.

“They gather over their roosting site, and perform their wheeling stunts before they roost for the night.”