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Where to See Starling Murmurations in the UK in 2023 (10 Best Places)

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starling murmurations

A murmuration is when thousands of starlings flock together, swooping and flying in formation. This event typically happens at dusk or dawn and the best displays are usually evident when the weather is crisp and calm.

Scientists believe that starlings gather in this way to protect against predation and as they look for new roosting sites. They can occur anywhere where there is a large population of starlings and while this can change according to conditions, there are some sites that are especially known for regularly hosting murmurations.

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The Top 10 Starling Murmuration Hotspots in the UK

1. RSPB Leighton Moss

Type of spot: RSPB Reserve
Difficulty Level: Easy
Common birds seen: Bearded tits, marsh harriers, egrets
Fee: Adults – £9

Children – £4.50

Under 5s – Free

Website: Get more info here

Located near Morecambe Bay, Leighton Moss is a reed bed reserve and is home to otters and red deer as well as a great range of feathered animals. And murmurations consisting of thousands of starlings can be seen here throughout winter.

Facilities at the site include guided walks, binocular hire, and viewing points. There are also picnic areas and there’s a car park. Visitors that arrive via public transport or bicycle get half-price entry.

Pros
  • Guided walks and picnic areas are available
  • Half-price entry if travelling by public transport or bicycle
  • Easy to access, with parking available
Cons
  • Costs, although free for RSPB members

2. RSPB Ham Wall

Type of spot: RSPB Reserve
Difficulty Level: Easy
Common birds seen: Bittern, bearded tits, egrets, hobbies, harriers
Fee: Free for members and non-members
Website: Get more info here

Visitors to RSPB Ham Wall can see kingfishers, as well as voles and otters, and is one of, if not the largest murmurations in Britain. It can get busy on weekends, so arrive early if you want to park, or visit during the week when crowds are smaller.

Unlike a lot of RSPB reserves, Ham Wall is free for members and non-members, although non-members are charged for the use of the car park. Guided walks are available, along with access to viewing points and a picnic area.

Pros
  • Free for members and non-members
  • Large population of starlings
  • Has picnic areas and guided walks
Cons
  • Can get very busy

3. RSPB Fen Drayton Lakes

Type of spot: RSPB Reserve
Difficulty Level: Easy
Common birds seen: Terns, grebes, gadwalls, bullfinches, hobbies, lapwings
Fee: Free for members and non-members
Website: Get more info here

The Fens in Cambridgeshire are home to several murmurations, with the largest typically being spotted at the Fen Drayton Lakes. The RSPB is continuing to make improvements to the reserve, so additional murmurations and other natural features may be seen in the coming years.

Unlike a lot of RPSB sites, there are no guided walks, but there are still viewing points. While the facilities are somewhat limited, there is a car park that is free for all to use.

Pros
  • Free entry and free parking
  • Viewing points set up for easy bird spotting
  • Reserve is being improved
Cons
  • Facilities and features are limited

4. West Pier, Brighton

Type of spot: Beach
Difficulty Level: Easy
Common birds seen: Starlings
Fee: Free 
Website: Get more info here

West Pier in Brighton was closed to the public in 1975 and suffered a serious fire in 2003, suffering further damage in storms in 2014 and 2016. Today, little more than a rusted frame remains, but for years this area was home to nightly murmurations consisting of tens of thousands of starlings.

Although the frequency of murmurations and the number of birds involved have dropped, visitors can still see the natural sight at this unique spot.

Pros
  • Easily accessible from Brighton town
  • Free
  • Large population of starlings
Cons
  • Lights from the town can ruin the view

5. Gretna Green, Scotland

Type of spot: Rural
Difficulty Level: Easy
Common birds seen: Starlings
Fee: Free 
Website: Get more info here

Gretna Green in Scotland is best known for its anvil weddings, so called because the town’s blacksmith shop was one of the first locations in Gretna to host weddings and because blacksmiths would perform “irregular marriages”, which are those conducted without church involvement.

Gretna Green’s rural setting and open skies mean that the town can welcome thousands of starlings each year and you can witness murmurations most often in November and February. The murmurations can be seen from anywhere in the town and the surrounding area.

Pros
  • Murmurations can be seen almost anywhere in the area
  • Plenty of places to park for free
  • Lots to do in the area
Cons
  • Can get very busy, especially if there are a lot of weddings

6. Ellon, Scotland

Type of spot: Rural
Difficulty Level: Easy
Common birds seen: Starlings
Fee: Free 
Website: Get more info here

Ellon is the home of the Brew Dog brewing company and is popular with visitors looking to enjoy the brewery tour. There’s also an on-site bar. For nature lovers, the Newburgh and Ythan Estuary are nearby and are host to starling murmurations throughout December and January.

Located on the River Ythan, Ellon has a population of as many as 30,000 starlings and the presence of peregrines and sparrowhawks in the area means the murmurations are a real undulating display of aerial prowess.

Pros
  • Plenty of natural sites to see
  • Murmurations can be seen in much of the town
  • Free, as long as you can find somewhere to park
Cons
  • It can be cold and windy during murmuration season

7. RSPB Newport Wetlands, Wales

Type of spot: RSPB Reserve
Difficulty Level: Easy
Common birds seen: Bearded tits, dunlins, egrets, grebes, shovelers
Fee: Free 
Website: Get more info here

Newport Wetlands are the largest wetlands in Wales and there are said to be approximately 50,000 starlings in the area in a year, making this a very large murmuration. There are viewing points at the reserve, as well as guided walks that introduce you to some of the other birds and natural visitors to the site. The reserve is free for members and non-members, although non-members do have to pay for parking.

Pros
  • Viewing points and guided walks available
  • Free to access the reserve
  • Large population of starlings
Cons
  • Parking fees for non-members

8. Royal Pier Aberystwyth, Wales

Type of spot: Beach
Difficulty Level: Easy
Common birds seen: Starlings
Fee: Free 
Website: Get more info here

Assuming a local population of roosting starlings, piers can make a great viewing area because they look out over the open sea, which is free from light pollution. Royal Pier, in Aberystwyth, has even recently added a dedicated starling murmuration viewing platform.

Some of the facilities at the pier itself, including the restaurant, tend to be closed during murmuration season. This does limit the noise and lights, but it also means that you will have to take a short walk if you want food after seeing the spectacle. 

Pros
  • New viewing platforms make it easy to spot murmurations
  • Pier facilities close so there is less light
  • Free parking can be found nearby
Cons
  • Viewing platforms may get busy

9. Albert Bridge, Belfast, Northern Ireland

Type of spot: City
Difficulty Level: Easy
Common birds seen: Starlings
Fee: Free 
Website:  

Albert Bridge stands over the River Lagan in Belfast. City murmurations have become very rare, but when they do occur, they are an incredible sight. Albert Bridge has the benefit of the river giving a clearer view of the murmuration, too. It can be difficult to get a really good view of the murmuration if you want to ensure that you can see the flock.

Pros
  • View over the river is clear
  • One of few city murmurations left
  • Parking can be tricky
Cons
  • Not always the best view

10. Drumhoney Holiday Park, Lisnarick, Northern Ireland

Type of spot: Rural
Difficulty Level: Moderate
Common birds seen: Starlings
Fee: Free 
Website: Get more info here

Albert Bridge and Belfast’s murmuration is reported to be the largest murmuration in Northern Ireland, but Drumhoney Holiday Park in Lisnarick has recently been added to the murmuration map with several thousand flock members.

Because it is a new murmuration, it can be unpredictable, so you may need to visit often to ensure that you have the best chance of seeing the starlings in their full glory. And, unless you’re staying at the holiday park itself, you might find parking and finding a good spot to be difficult.

Pros
  • Rural location means unfettered views
  • Free to visit the area
Cons
  • Young murmuration so still quite unpredictable
  • Can be a challenge to park

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FAQ

Do starlings murmurate every night?

There is unlikely to be a murmuration every night in any location, but there is a chance to see one every night, and there will usually be more than one each season. In some locations, they can be seen several nights a week and several weeks of the year.

What time of day do starlings murmurate?

The best time to see a murmuration is just before dusk. This is when the starlings are looking for somewhere to roost and, happily, it is also the best time of night because of the ambient lighting.

What time of year is best for murmurations?

Murmurations occur when the starlings start to roost. Small numbers can be seen as early as September in some locations and the events may continue until January. December and January are the busiest months for murmurations in most areas of the UK.

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Conclusion

Starling murmurations are a truly incredible sight. Every starling watches the six or seven birds closest to them and reacts to their movements, almost instantly, which leads to the murmuration taking flight and changing direction rapidly and giving the murmuration its unique undulating, swooping effect.

It helps protect against predation because predators are unable to easily concentrate on any single bird in the flock, effectively being overwhelmed by the number of birds they have to concentrate on. Flock sizes grow over the season, as new, smaller flocks are attracted to join the larger flock in a bid to enjoy the strength in numbers offered.


Featured Image Credit: Albert Beukhof, Shutterstock

About the Author Robert Sparks

Robert’s obsession with all things optical started early in life, when his optician father would bring home prototypes for Robert to play with. Nowadays, Robert is dedicated to helping others find the right optics for their needs. His hobbies include astronomy, astrophysics, and model building. Originally from Newark, NJ, he resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the nighttime skies are filled with glittering stars.

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