A scene straight from 'The Birds': mega-flocks of blackbirds are out and about

Molly Daly
December 15, 2019 - 4:30 am
A huge flock of red-winged blackbirds take flight.

Courtesy of Holly Merker

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — It's startling, exciting, and a bit ominous to find yourself surrounded by a huge flock of thousands blackbirds. Although it looks like something out of a Hitchcock movie, there's a perfectly natural explanation. 

KYW Newsradio's Pat Loeb says a mega-flock paid her a visit late last Saturday afternoon.

"I heard this din...a noise I'd never actually heard before, and I thought, 'what is that?'" she recalled. "And I walked out, and here it was, flocks and flocks — not just one flock — many, many flocks of birds."

Landing in her yard, the bare trees suddenly looked as if they were leafed out with birds. 

"I have chickens in a coop in my backyard," Loeb said. "I was like 'Oh my God, they're mad that I'm cooping up their fellow birds.'"

But Audubon Pennsylvania's Keith Russell says the normally territorial Red-winged Blackbirds weren't on a mission of vengeance or chicken liberation.

"After the breeding season has finished, they now become very social, and they bond together," he explained. "They look for food, they look for roosting places, they travel together in cooperative flocks, it protects them from enemies."

Late in the day, the flocks swell in size as they clock out and head to roost, an undulating river of birds snaking across the sky. "These flocks can go on and on and on and on for miles," he said. "They're gigantic."

And when Pat's avian visitation ended, "It was like the wind blowing, all of these wings flapping at the same time," she recounted. "It was incredible."