We wrote recently about the science behind starling murmurations -- how such huge flocks of birds can maneuver together, changing direction in an instant as if of one mind. The result of starlings being in such sync with one another is amazing to watch, but one artist, Dennis Hlynsky, wondered about what would be revealed if he tracked the movement of individual birds in a flock. What patterns would be traced across the sky? Hlynsky, a professor at the Rhode Island School of Design, picked up his camera to find out. 

"I have been looking at the dynamics of creatures with small brains who come together on mass. I am continually surprised at the results of processing these group behaviors. As we collect more data and attempt to track and visualize it – I feel the study of these movements in our urban nature habitats can serve as a powerful model for visualizing complex systems," states Hlynsky. "I do not use time lapse in the traditional sense of the word but offer a glimpse seconds long of the paths these creatures take. I find each “flock” has a form, a rhythm, and pattern to the glyphs they leave as they perambulate."

Using a Lumix GH2, Hlynsky films footage from locations around Rhode Island. "He then edits select clips with After Effects and other tools to create brief visual trails that illustrate the path of each moving bird. Non-moving objects like trees and telephone poles remain stationary, and with the added ambient noise of where he was filming, an amazing balance between abstraction and reality emerges," writes Colossal.

Below are time lapses of starlings, vultures, and other bird species, with single birds tracked in their flights, so you can see how a flock and its individuals move over time. They're simply mesmerizing to watch.

data in data out from Dennis Hlynsky on Vimeo.

murmuration of starlings - large from Dennis Hlynsky on Vimeo.

black vultures from Dennis Hlynsky on Vimeo.

1 2014 starlings 00011 from Dennis Hlynsky on Vimeo.

swallows of essex from Dennis Hlynsky on Vimeo.

More videos from Hlynsky can be found on his Vimeo page, including tracking snowfall, insects, ducks and other life.

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Jaymi Heimbuch ( @jaymiheimbuch ) focuses on wildlife conservation and animal news from her home base in San Francisco.

Flight patterns of birds tracked in mesmerizing time lapse videos
Artist Dennis Hlynsky traces the flying patterns of individual birds in a flock through these videos.